To Save a Species
Partners in Conservation
Many partners are working to save the New England cottontail, including state and federal agencies, wildlife and conservation organizations, municipalities, land trusts, corporations, and private companies and individuals. Recently the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress, awarded more than a quarter million dollars for conservation and habitat-creation projects. The Wildlife Management Institute administers this and other funding.
Helping Landowners Help Cottontails
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies can draw up Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) that let private landowners use their land and gain income from it while voluntarily creating habitat for New England cottontails. (CCAAs provide legal guarantees that no additional regulatory burdens will be placed on cooperating landowners should the New England cottontail formally be listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.)
Scientists identify population Focus Areas where land can be protected and habitat created, as well as corridors through which cottontails can move so that local populations link with one another, assuring the flow of genes and individuals needed for health and survival. They collect and analyze data on forest age; shrubland and other key habitats; and land ownership and development patterns. They monitor cottontails to learn more about the species’ behavior and life needs. They develop strategies and techniques to trap and transfer cottontails, moving them from small, isolated habitat patches to larger areas where they can thrive.
Biologists have begun a captive-breeding program to help safeguard small populations and speed up repopulation efforts. And they’re fine-tuning ways of measuring cottontail population changes following the improvement and creation of their habitat.
Partners are setting up demonstration areas on private properties, state and federal lands, and municipal and land trust holdings. These habitats and habitat corridors will help ensure the New England cottontail’s survival on the landscape for many years to come.
Rabbits have a high reproductive rate, and populations can rebound quickly when these animals find good living conditions. The key to restoring the New England cottontail is providing the species with ample, interconnected areas of high-quality habitat. The rabbits will do the rest.