Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)

mountain cottontail


  • The mountain cottontail is smaller than the hares and weighs about 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds).


  • Has shorter hind feet and ears; ears lack the black tips of the hares.
  • Fur is a grizzled brown on the upperparts with grey on the sides and rump, and white on the underparts.
  • Top of the tail is grey, but it is usually the white underside that is shown.
  • Cottontails do not change color in winter.
  • Sparsely distributed in the coulees, river bottoms and copses of the grassland natural region where there are ample thickets and brush for cover and food.
Natural History


  • In summer, diet includes a variety of green vegetation, with grasses being the most common.
  • In winter, buds, bark, and branches of shrubs and small trees are eaten.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Mating may occur as early as February, with litters of two to seven young being born about a month later.
  • The young are born naked and blind in nests usually located in underground burrows.
  • Does (adult females) may breed three or more times a year.
Conservation and Management


The cottontail is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management


The mountain cottontail may be hunted, but not trapped, without a licence throughout the province, at all times of the year. See details in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:


Page Information

Updated: May 12, 2010