Are predators harming the New England cottontail?

In general, rabbit populations can withstand constant pressure from predation. However, research has shown that in areas where natural habitats have been fragmented, with much land cleared and developed and with widespread “edge” areas between forests and fields, predators can imperil local cottontails.

Studies show that New England cottontails are more likely to survive through winter in habitat patches 25 acres and larger. In extensive areas of good cover, cottontails can more easily escape predators, plus they don’t need to move around as much and expose themselves to predation when seeking food, finding mates, or raising young. New England cottontails are not well-suited to avoiding predators out in the open, so conservationists are working to create bigger and more numerous patches of thick cover. In areas where cottontails are abundant and reproduce freely, they represent an important renewable food source for predators such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls.