Conservationists at Japan Conference Hear About NEC Use of Burrows

BIDDEFORD, Maine – Zach Olson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Animal Behavior in the Department of Psychology at the University of New England, was an invited speaker at the International Wildlife Management Congress, held in Sapporo, Japan, on July 27, 2015.

UNE students

Zach Olson (black shirt, center) and UNE students at newly constructed cottontail burrow.

He presented on his ongoing research on the state endangered New England cottontail rabbit.

Olson’s co-author on the talk was Walter J. Jakubas, Ph.D., of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and a member of the New England cottontail technical committee. The work also involved the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

In the talk, titled “Use of Constructed Burrows by New England Cottontail Rabbits,” Olson described how he and his colleagues monitored and recorded New England cottontails’ use of burrows as shelter and escape cover.

New England cottontail grooming

Trail camera photo of cottontail grooming itself at night.

He also discussed how the research provides a promising lead on the idea that adding burrows to the landscape (i.e., constructing them) might benefit efforts at conserving New England cottontails by improving the rabbits’ ability to survive harsh winter weather and predation attempts.

The research has involved seven UNE students who have assisted Olson in installing constructed burrows at three sites in and near Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where they continue to monitor burrow use and effects on survival for the rabbits. Fourteen additional UNE student volunteers participated in building the burrows.