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. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress, has funded many conservation efforts, including habitat-creation projects.

Helping Landowners Help Cottontails

New England cottontail hiding

Cottontails can evade predators in thick young forest habitat./V. Young

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 ever 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.

New England cottontail focus areas

New England cottontail focus areas. Focus area boundaries may change over time./J. Tash

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.

Showcasing 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 are designed to keep New England cottontails around 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.