The fact that Connecticut still has widely distributed populations of New England cottontails signals that there is a fair amount of habitat remaining in the state. However, conservationists aren't taking this situation for granted.
The Avalonia Land Conservancy holds more than 3,200 acres in eight towns in southeastern Connecticut, most of them in the Ledyard-Coastal Focus Area for New England cottontail restoration. In 2011, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the conservancy consider making young forest to help cottontails on two of their parcels.
In 1995, an heir of Margery Boyd gave the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society (LHAS) a beautiful 102-acre tract a mile and a half south of the town of Litchfield in western Connecticut. The property, Twin Brook Farm, was graced with meadows, thickets, vernal ponds, rock outcroppings, and woods – plenty of woods. LHAS designated the property the Boyd Woods Audubon Sanctuary. One of three LHAS sanctuaries, it is now a popular destination for hikers and wildlife-watchers.
Forty-five acres of renewed rabbit habitat and 83 brushpiles where wildlife can find cover: These are part of the conservation mix at White Memorial Foundation, where young forest will attract and support rabbits while educating people to the value of this key habitat.
Out in western Connecticut there’s a 967-acre Wildlife Management Area where conservationists are doing their best to make life easier for New England cottontails, woodcock, ruffed grouse, and the myriad other wild creatures that need young forest.
On the Groton Sportsmen’s Club in eastern Connecticut – less than a mile from the Wyassup Block of Pachaug State Forest, and near the border with Rhode Island – club members and state and federal conservationists have teamed up to replace invasive shrubs with native ones while maintaining and improving habitat for New England cottontails.
Biologists have long known that the Wyassup Block in eastern Connecticut’s Pachaug State Forest hosts a population of New England cottontails. To keep the habitat healthy and the rabbits happy, biologists and foresters teamed up to make new young forest on this state-managed parcel.
The small tracked machine rumbled up to a clump of autumn olive 15 feet broad and 10 feet tall. The shrub was one of many non-native invasive shrubs crowding an old pasture on the aptly named Cottontail Farm in eastern Connecticut. It was a misty morning in May, and birds called from fencerows and hedges. The autumn olive looked dense and bushy, but it wouldn't be that way after leaf-fall and in the winter, because it was an old shrub, open-grown and past its prime.