Federal Status: Endangered FL Status: Federal-designated Endangered Species
Description and current status:
The Lower Keys rabbit is the smallest of three subspecies of marsh rabbits. This species can reach a length of 14-16 inches long (3.5-4 centimeters). This species has a brown dorsal (back);
gray belly, small ears, and a grayish-brown tail (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). Lower Keys Rabbit 2 | Page Life History The primary diet of the Lower Keys rabbit consists of a variety
of vegetative plants, as is the bushy seaside tansy (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1999). Breeding occurs over the course of the entire year; however, breeding commonly peaks between December and June. Female
rabbits can go through a pseudo-pregnancy, in the event that they mate with an infertile male (Thompson and Frost 2008). The total gestation period ranges from 30-37 days (Smithsonian National Museum
of Natural History, n.d.). Rabbit nests are lined with grass and breast fur and located on the ground in thickets, stumps or logs. On average, a rabbit will produce six to seven litters per year with two
to four young in each litter. Rabbits are born blind and will not open their eyes until the fourth or fifth day after birth. Females will tend to their offspring until they can become self-reliant often at the tender age of
12 to 15 days. Rabbits can normally live up to four years in the wild; however, most do not survive over one year (Thompson and Frost 2008). Habitat & Distribution: Lower Keys rabbits typically inhabit higher
elevation levels where there is an abundance of fresh and salt water marshes. This species is endemic to the Florida Keys beginning from Big Pine Key and stretching to Boca Chica Key (Florida Natural Areas inventory 2001).
Threats: The main threats to the Lower Keys rabbit is habitat destruction (human urbanization) and fragmentation. Habitat destruction has been extensive in the Florida Keys, and the rabbit has lost 50%
of its habitat in the last 25 years (Faulhaber and Smith 2008). Human development has increased along the coast and islands, which destroys habitats that were once uninterrupted. Habitat fragmentation
is also a threat with increased development, as the habitat is broken off into different sections, segregating populations. Small segregated populations can be difficult to sustain, leading to extirpation.
Furthermore, invasive vegetation decreases available food for the Lower Keys rabbit by out-competing the native vegetation that rabbits feed on. Moreover, the Lower Keys Rabbits are further threatened by constant
land development.Habitat fragmentation is also a brave threat as a consequence of increased development, as the habitat is broken off into different sections or areas, effectively detrimentally segregating and isolation
populations. Small segregated populations can be difficult to sustain, leading to extirpation.