5K Race Benefits New England Cottontails

Article appeared in Outdoor News Daily

CONCORD, N.H. – Participants in Stonyfield Farm’s 5K walk/run and free Earth Day Fair on Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Londonderry were helping bring a native rabbit back to New Hampshire’s landscape.

Each year, Stonyfield donates a portion of the proceeds from the event to an organization – this year donations went to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program for work restoring the New England cottontail. The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program hosted a booth with fun New England cottontail activities and important information about the conservation effort.

Stonyfield Farm provides habitat for one of the last remaining populations of New England cottontail in New Hampshire. “The population of New England cottontails occupying the landscape around the Stonyfield site is possibly the largest in the state,” said Heidi Holman, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game’s Nongame Program and the leader of the cottontail restoration project in the Granite State.

Today, some five to ten New England cottontails can be found throughout the entire 11 acres of habitat, whereas only one or two native rabbits were documented in the area before work began to make space for young forest to grow. In addition to the Stonyfield site, similar work is occurring nearby on several properties owned by the Town of Londonderry in an effort to maintain a viable population.

Restoration of New Hampshire’s only native cottontail is a major effort among six states to restore the cottontail population and protect these animals before they disappear forever. New England cottontails are endangered in New Hampshire and are a candidate for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Their current distribution is less than a fifth of their historic range.

To help bring back these rare rabbits, the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Wildlife Management Institute and other partners to create more of the shrubland habitat that New England cottontails need for food and shelter.