Body length: 12 - 17"
Diet: Green vegetation
Two species of cottontail, the desert (Sylvilagus audubonii) and the eastern (S. floridanus), occur at Tonto National Monument. This side-by-side occurrence of the two species is quite rare in Arizona, as they generally prefer different habitats. Desert and eastern cottontails are very difficult to tell apart. In general, eastern cottontails are slightly larger, and have larger ears and a more reddish nape and tail than desert cottontails. In addition, eastern cottontails are rarely found far from shade; here, they probably occur only in the wooded areas of Cave Creek Canyon.
Cottontails and jackrabbits were an important food source for prehistoric people, and their bones are abundant in archeological deposits of the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument and throughout the Tonto Basin.
Did You Know?
Tonto National Monument is home to a crested saguaro. Botanists disagree as to why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some speculate that it is a genetic mutation. Others say it is the result of lightning or freeze damage. About one in 150,000 saguaros develop this unusual growth.