Swamp Rabbit Surprise at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

For years, I’ve had the pleasure of photographing swamp rabbits here in Arkansas. But this spring, I finally got to add a new location to my swamp rabbit photography list: the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.

Swamp Rabbit With A Plant Hanging From Its Mouth
Swamp Rabbit With A Plant Hanging From Its Mouth

Imagine my surprise when I spotted my first one near the Sandtown parking area. Not only did I see it once, but on several different visits throughout the spring! I even managed to snag a sighting near Goss Slough.

Considering the refuge’s fantastic wetland habitat, it’s surprising it took me this long to see these fascinating creatures. I’ve been visiting Sequoyah since 2007, and this was the first year I encountered them. Now that I know they’re around, one of my photography goals is to capture a swamp rabbit taking a swim – something their aquatic skills make them well-suited for.

Swamp Rabbit Eating Plant Side View
Swamp Rabbit Eating Plant Side View

Speaking of differences between swamp rabbits and their cottontail cousins, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Size Matters: Swamp rabbits are heavyweight champions compared to cottontails. They pack 3-6 pounds, while cottontails are lighter at 2-3 pounds.
  • Habitat Happy Place: Swamps, marshes, and floodplains with thick vegetation are a swamp rabbit’s dream home. Cottontails, on the other hand, prefer drier areas with brushy cover.
  • Look and Feel: Smaller, rounder ears and a coat that’s coarser and more yellow-tinged help distinguish swamp rabbits. They also have a unique cinnamon ring around their eyes, which cottontails lack.
  • Water Warriors: This is where things get interesting. Swamp rabbits are semi-aquatic and excellent swimmers, often taking to the water to escape predators. Cottontails, well, let’s just say they’re not exactly Olympic swimmers.
  • Breeding in Sync: Swamp rabbits exhibit synchronous breeding, meaning the entire population mates around the same time. Cottontails, on the other hand, don’t follow this synchronized schedule.

So, while they’re both rabbits, swamp rabbits offer a distinct package – bigger size, a love for water, unique physical characteristics, and a fascinating breeding behavior. If you’re ever at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, keep your eyes peeled – you might just be surprised by a swamp rabbit sighting!