Assessing Swamp Rabbit Distribution in Kentucky

Significant declines in forested bottomlands are a basis for concern about the status of swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus) in Kentucky. Current swamp rabbit distribution was determined through staff surveys and field investigations. Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) personnel were surveyed to document their knowledge of swamp rabbit occurrence. County maps were marked to show areas where swamp rabbits were (1) thought to currently exist; (2) extirpated; and (3) areas which had potential habitat but unknown status of occupancy of swamp rabbits. These data indicated that swamp rabbits were extant in parts of 14 counties and extirpated from parts of 13 counties. Areas were identified in 14 counties where habitat was thought suitable but status of swamp rabbits unknown. Spot searches for swamp rabbits or their sign were completed at 280 sites. Rabbit fecal pellets were found at 137 locations in 20 counties. Populations were found along 12 stream systems. Potentially isolated populations occurred along 5 stream drainages. Field spot checks corroborated the field staff survey 66.5% of the time. Swamp rabbits were found where field staff had indicated they would be 60.0% of the time. Swamp rabbits were not found in areas field staff had indicated they were extirpated 76.0% of the time.

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