What to Do About Invasives
A Balanced Approach
New England cottontails often live among exotic invasive shrubs (often simply referred to as "invasives"), including autumn olive, multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, buckthorn, and bush honeysuckle. Rabbits feed on some invasive plants, which also provide effective cover, protecting rabbits from predators.
Non-native plants may add to the density of the cover, but they can spread at the expense of native shrubs that may provide better food and habitat for cottontails and other wildlife.
When making habitat for New England cottontails, it's important to avoid actions that favor invasives. All habitat management activities should be carefully evaluated for their potential effects, since practices such as cutting and burning can help spread the seeds of invasive plants or create conditions that favor those less-than-desirable aliens.
If your site already has invasives (most shrublands in the New England cottontail's range have them), it's important to consult with a natural resource professional to learn what your options are.
Removing all invasives at once may hurt local populations of New England cottontails and other wildlife. It may make sense to gradually remove exotic plants over a period of years. Conservationists recommend ongoing monitoring and management to prevent exotic species from dominating a site – something that invasives can do quickly, sometimes in only two or three years.
Different kinds of invasives can be controlled in different ways. Learn about manual, chemical, and biocontrol techniques in “Invasive Exotic Plants in Early-Successional Habitats,” Chapter 8 in Managing Grasslands, Shrublands and Young Forests for Wildlife: A Guide for the Northeast. And gain insight into how to plan for successful management of invasive plants on sites inhabited by wildlife, including New England cottontails.
Learn more about invasive plants within the New England cottontail's range.