Snowshoe Hare Identification

Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus)

  • Size: MEDIUM…but relatively LARGE hind feet!
  • Fur: dark brown, or white in winter!
  • Ears: SHORT
  • Tail: SMALL, white to GRAYISH-BROWN
  • Habitat: mountainous forests and thickets, especially near riparian habitat and meadows
  • Distribution in CA: UNCOMMON in the upper elevations of the Klamath and Cascade Mtns. south through the Sierra Nevada to Mariposa, Mono, and Madera counties
arrow pointing at large hind feet of dark brown rabbit
Snowshoe Hare. © Robert Potts - CA Academy of Sciences, all rights reserved.
arrow pointing to large hind feet of white rabbit
Snowshoe Hare. Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson (CC).

Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani)

  • Size: SMALLEST common rabbit…with SMALL feet!
  • Fur: brown
  • Ears: SHORT
  • Tail: SMALL, underside is GRAY
  • Habitat: Chaparral or thick brush
  • Distribution in CA: ABUNDANT throughout west of the Sierra Nevada Mtns.
arrow pointing at back feet of small brown rabbit
Brush Rabbit. © photo by Kim Cabrera, all rights reserved.

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit/Nuttall’s Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)

  • Size: SMALL
  • Fur: brownish-grayish; white underside
  • Ears: SHORT
  • Habitat: thickets, loose rocks and cliffs, and brushy areas with sagebrush
  • Distribution in CA: COMMON on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mtns. south through Inyo county
arrow pointing at fluffy white tail brownish-grayish rabbit
Mountain Cottontail Rabbit. Photo by Justin Wilde - Hanford, Washington.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

  • Size: LARGE
  • Fur: grayish-brown; black streak on top of tail
  • Ears: LONG, BLACK-tipped
  • Tail: BLACK on top
  • Habitat: open prairies, and sparsely-vegetated shrublands and semi-arid deserts; sometimes forests
  • Distribution in CA: COMMON throughout, except at the highest elevations
arrows pointing at long, black-tipped ears, and brown and black tail of jackrabbit
Black-tailed Jackrabbit. Photo by Jim Harper (CC).

White-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii)

  • Size: LARGE
  • Size: LARGEST hare
  • Fur: brownish-gray in summer, or whitish-pale gray in winter!
  • Ears: VERY LONG, BLACK-tipped
  • Tail: WHITE on top and below
  • Habitat: open, grassy, or sagebrush-dominated plains; also subalpine conifer or alpine dwarf-shrub
  • Distribution in CA: UNCOMMON to RARE on the crest and upper eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, south to Tulare and Inyo counties
arrows pointing at long, black-tipped ears, and white fluffy tail of silver-brown jackrabbit
White-tailed Jackrabbit. Photo by Connormah (CC).
jackrabbit with white winter coat
White-tailed Jackrabbit. (CC).

Wildlife Branch - Wildlife Diversity Program
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605