Brush rabbits are smaller than other cottontails and unlike most other cottontails, the underside of its tail is grey rather than white. On the body, the upperside fur is light brown to gray and the underside of the body is white. They have small, slightly pointed ears, with a small tail. Females are slightly larger than the male; sizes range from 10 inches to 14 and these bunnies weigh no more than 2 pounds.
Their names describes their habitat, they like brushy areas and rarely roam out in the open. Their home range is only about 2000 square yards for females and 4000 square yards for males. They like to stay close to home and cover for safety. Brush rabbits are common from the Columbia River in Oregon to Baja California and from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada. They are here year round.
They are most active around dawn and dusk. Afternoons are best spent basking in the sunlight perched on a log near safe cover.
They eat lots of grasses, forbs, wild rose, leaves, shoots and blackberries with green clover being their favorite food.
Brush rabbits breed from January to May or June. Average litter size is 4 in California and they will have 3-4 litters per year. Even with all those babies and litters, only 1 in 6 lives long enough to breed. Most young bunnies are killed by predators. Predators include bobcats, coyotes, minks, weasels, skunks, great horned owls and domestic pets.
Frightened brush rabbits will thump the ground with a hind foot and may also squeal as a way to scare off a predator. Escape routes are burrows dug by other animals or they may climb into shrubs or up trees to get away from danger.
The nest is lined with fur and grass. Young are born altricial (helpless and unfurred) and remain in the nest for about 14 days. Their eyes open about the 10th day.
A young brush rabbit is called a bunny, kit, kitten, leveret or nestling. The females are “doe” or “jill” and the males are “buck” or “jack”. A group of brush rabbits is called a warren, nest, colony, bevy, bury, dove or trace. Pick your favorite!
Unlike other cottontail species, brush rabbits are not hunted for food and are not considered a pest to crops.
The San Joaquin population is considered endangered due to loss of natural habitat, wild fires, disease, and predation by domestic and feral cats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to restore the brush bunny population by releasing more than two dozen in a safe place near the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.