Groton Sportsman's Club, New London County

A Sportsmen’s Club Pitches In

Invasive shrubs are a problem in much of southern New England. Such non-native plants may add to the density of a patch of cover, but they spread at the expense of native shrubs that offer better food and habitat for cottontails and other wildlife. 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 rabbits.

Invasive plants removed in a strip

Conservationists took out exotic invasive shrubs here, will replant with native shrubs that offer better habitat.

It’s an important task: Because of its location, existing habitat, and presence of New England cottontails, the Club has been judged the number-three-ranked parcel in Connecticut for New England cottontail restoration.

Underway are three logging-harvest clearcuts to jump-start patches of young forest; building brushpiles to provide shelter for wildlife while the new young forest grows; and eradicating unwanted invasives like multiflora rose and bush honeysuckle, then replanting with native shrubs such as blackberry, raspberry, and juniper. The new shrub plantings will be surrounded with fences and tree-branch cuttings to exclude deer and keep them from browsing back the tender new shrubs.

The end result? A patchwork of nearly 50 acres of young forest and shrub thickets spread across the 380-acre Sportsmen’s Club.


Songbirds like this cardinal will flock to new young forest and shrubland at Groton Sportsmen's Club./E. Guthro

Several conservation programs enabled this work. One is the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, or WHIP, administered by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which reimburses the Sportsmen’s Club for habitat improvements.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection prepared a conservation plan for the property, provided technical assistance, and carried out the fight against the invasive plants: Through its Landowner Incentive Program, the DEEP helps pay for a contractor to treat the invasives and build brushpiles. The Club pitches in by providing publicity, planting shrubs, and maintaining the restored fields into the future.

Rabbit habitat on Groton Sportsmen’s Club will link to habitat the state is making in nearby Pachaug State Forest. As a result, eastern Connecticut should remain a stronghold for New England cottontails for years to come. And the habitat being made for the rabbits will help out wildlife as diverse as eastern kingbirds, gray catbirds, yellow-breasted chats, and wood and box turtles – all listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Connecticut.

Partners and Funding

Groton Sportsmen’s Club, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute

How to Visit

Visit the website of the Groton Sportsmen’s Club to learn how to contact this organization. For more information on this and other habitat projects, contact these biologists with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division: Paul Rothbart at, 860-295-9523, or Lisa Wahle at, 860-295-9523