New York Natural Heritage Program
New England Cottontail
Sylvilagus transitionalis (Bangs, 1895)
Mammals

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The New England cottontail closely resembles the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), but it tends to be a little smaller and darker. The ears are shorter and rounder, with the outer edge possessing a broad, black stripe which does not blend gradually into the browner color of the ear as in the eastern cottontail. There is usually a black spot between the ears, as compared to the white spot found on the forehead of the eastern cottontail. (Chapman 1975, Godin 1977, Litvaitis et al. 1991)

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
True identification can only be made thrugh DNA analysis or skull characteristics (Hamilton and Whitaker 1979, Ruedas et al. 1989).

Behavior [-]
Breeding season is January to September, peaking from March to July. The gestation period is 28 days. Litter size is genrally 3-5 or occasionally up to 8, with up to several litters per year. Litters are smaller but more numerous than in the eastern cottontail, resulting in about the same productivity. Most individuals first breed in their second season, but 18% of pregnancies are in juveniles (Dalke 1942, Hamilton and Whitaker 1979).

Diet [-]
In the spring and summer, New England cottontails feed on grasses and herbs including goldenrods, crabgrass, and chickweed. In the fall and winter, their diet consists of seedlings, bark, twigs of gray birch, red maple, and aspen, and shrubs including blackberry, dewberry, and willow (Dalke and Sime 1941).
New England Cottontail Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
New England Cottontails are most active at dawn and dusk. The breeding season is typically from March to September.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Active Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find New England Cottontail active (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
    The eastern cottontail is lighter in color and typically has a white spot between the ears, whereas the New England cottontail is darker and typically has a dark spot between the ears.