Five races of cottontail rabbits belonging to three species occur in Virginia. One of them, the Mearns cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus mearnsi), is reported here for the first time. It occurs in six southwestern counties of the state, while the eastern cottontail (S. f. mallurus) occurs in the remainder of the state with the exception of Smith and Fishermans islands off the eastern coast of Cape Charles, where it is replaced by Hitchens cottontail (S. f. hitchensi). The New England cottontail (S. transitionalis) is found on the higher mountain peaks, above 3000 feet, and the swamp rabbit (S. palustris) occurs in the Dismal Swamp region of southeastern Virginia.....The height of the breeding season for the eastern cottontail in Virginia is March and April, but breeding continues through the entire year except in December and January. The average litter size based on embryo counts was 4.7. The sex ratio of 234 specimens from all parts of the state, taken mostly in the December to February period, was 53 males to 47 females. That of a group of 145 rabbits live-trapped at Blacksburg during February and Marchwas 58 males to 42 females. The figures show that males are more active than females during the winter months, and therefore are more easily taken then....In transplanting cottontails from one section of the state to another, it is recommended that only cottontails of the same race as those originally present in the region being restocked be released there....Tularemia is not a common disease among rabbits in Virginia, but the rabbit ticks are often carriers of the disease and may transmit it to rabbits. Rabbit ticks are also found to be carriers of Rocky Mountain fever and American Q. fever. After the ticks drop off the rabbits to hibernate in the ground, which is likely to occur during mid-winter in Virginia, there is relatively little danger of humans contracting tularemia by contact with rabbits. Present laws in Virginia which prohibit rabbit hunting until the opening of the general hunting season, November 15and November 20--west and east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, respectively--protect the licensed hunters to which these regulations apply, but landowners or tenants are still allowed to take rabbits for their own use on their own land at any time. It is recommended that as a public health measure the taking of cottontails be completely prohibited to all until the opening of the general hunting season.
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