Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Appalachian Cottontail - Sylvilagus obscurus
Leporidae Members:
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Photo by: Steve Hall and Bo Sullivan
Distribution The NC range is solely in the mountains, mainly at middle and high elevations. Records are now available for all but one such county (Henderson).

A very small range, solely in the Appalachians, from PA south to AL.
Abundance Easily overlooked because of the great similarity to the Eastern Cottontail, but generally rare to uncommon. Formerly thought to be rare, but with a decent number of recent reports (some with photos), and with records for essentially all mountain counties, it should no longer be considered truly as a rare species. More numerous over 4,000 feet, and probably occurs down to at least 2,500 feet.
Seasonal Occurrence Active year-round.
Habitat Middle and high elevation forests, almost always with a thick cover of rhododendron and/or mountain laurel. This can also include cut-over thickets regenerating back with these evergreen shrubs, but seldom far from dense evergreen cover. Also occurs around small openings, grass balds, and heath balds, especially their edges, but not normally in open fields and near man (where the Eastern Cottontail can be quite common).
See also Habitat Account for General Rhododendron Thickets and Balds
Behavior More active at night than day, but can be seen during the daytime. Seldom ventures as far from dense cover as does the Eastern Cottontail.
Comments This species was split off from the former New England Cottontail (S. transitionalis), which ranges from ME to AL; this split took place in 1992. The remainder of this population in the north retains the common and scientific names. Both of these species are rather rare and of conservation concern, especially the New England Cottontail. Though Appalachian Cottontails are game animals, it is unlikely that hunters make a distinction between it and the Eastern Cottontail, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission does not have a separate bag limit for it; thus, it is difficult to obtain information about the number of them that are harvested by hunters.
Origin Native
NC List Official
state_status SR
S_rank S3
G_rank G4
other_comName New England Cottontail, Allegheny Cottontail
synonym Sylvilagus transitionalis
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.