Survival, abundance, and capture rate of eastern cottontail rabbits in an urban park

Victoria M. Hunt, Seth B. Magle, Chino Vargas, Alison W. Brown, Eric V. Lonsdorf, Allison B. Sacerdote, Evan J. Sorley, Rachel M. Santymire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) are common, conspicuous denizens of urban environments. They are associated with human-wildlife conflict due to vegetation damage. Prior to this study, population dynamics of this species in urban environments remained largely uncharacterized. For three consecutive winters, we used classic field ecology methods (mark-recapture and mark–resight surveys) to estimate demographic parameters of rabbits in a city park in Chicago, Illinois. Rabbits occurred in densities as high as 16.3 rabbits/ha, which is comparatively high for the Midwestern United States. An annual survivorship of 30.4 ± 12.9 % SE was similar to that observed in natural environments in similar climates. This result refuted our hypothesis that urban rabbits would have higher annual survival rates than rabbits in natural settings due to food subsidies supplied by landscaping in parks. Mean distance between trap locations for rabbits trapped three or more times was 43.14 ± 30.01 m SD, suggesting that rabbits in the urban study area had smaller home ranges than rabbits in non-human-dominated habitats. This study contributes to our understanding of population dynamics of a human-wildlife conflict species in urban environments and provides useful information for managers dealing with damage caused by rabbits. The mark-resight method employed here could be used by managers to estimate pre- and post-management population sizes of other conflict species, for example Canada geese (Branta Canadensis), in parks and green spaces, provided that the species is trappable, visible, and individuals have relatively small home ranges.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-560
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Chicago
  • Eastern cottontail rabbit
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Management
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • nature conservation
  • population dynamics
  • Sylvilagus floridanus
  • Urban Ecology
  • Urban wildlife


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