Habitat Projects Helping Cottontails

New York

Statewide Young Forest Initiative to Help Cottontails, Other Wildlife

In New York, the New England cottontail occurs east of the Hudson River in areas of young forest and shrubland in parts of Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester counties. (Although once found in Rensselaer County, the species has not been detected there since the 1950s.)

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Conservationists Cooperate to Help Cottontails

New England cottontail numbers have fallen for several decades in New Hampshire. The presence of the introduced eastern cottontail – very difficult to distinguish from the New England cottontail – has masked the plight of the state’s native rabbit. New Hampshire placed the New England cottontail on the state endangered species list in 2008 to raise awareness of the rabbit’s vulnerability and help protect the remaining population.


Natural and Human-Created Disturbances Make Rabbit Habitat

New England cottontails live in several different types of habitat in the Bay State. In southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, they inhabit pitch pine-scrub oak woodlands growing on the dry, sandy soils of that region. In southwestern Massachusetts, they live in young forest in upland areas and in wetlands with dense shrubs.


Helping Maine's Native Cottontail

Described as plentiful in southern Maine in the mid-1900s, today the New England cottontail holds on in less than 15 percent of its former range in the state. Forests have matured, and now interlocking tree canopies shade out the 5- to 15-foot-tall thickets that once provided rabbits with abundant hiding spots and food during Maine’s long winters.

Rhode Island

New Habitat and an Island Population

New England cottontails were once abundant throughout southern Rhode Island west of Narragansett Bay, but their numbers plummeted as young forest and shrubland dwindled in the state. Habitat was lost through natural forest maturation (cottontails don’t live in older woodlands) and to residential and commercial development. In recent years, biologists have found evidence of four small populations.


Making Habitat and Helping Cottontails

The fact that Connecticut still has widely distributed populations of New England cottontails signals that there is a fair amount of habitat remaining in the state. However, conservationists aren't taking this situation for granted.

Nellie Hill Tract, Lower Hudson Valley

First Tract in a New Wildlife Refuge

In early 2018, genetic analysis of rabbit fecal pellets – those familiar round droppings found on winter’s snow, collected in plastic vials by biologists and sent to a university lab for testing – confirmed the presence of New England cottontails on the Nellie Hill Tract of the new federal Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge.

Cottontail and Woodcock Habitat in Connecticut's Hills

In 2014 the Old Newgate Coon Club, near Norfolk in northwestern Connecticut, launched a project to help New England cottontails by clearing 21 forested acres so that dense small trees – a habitat type also known as young forest – would grow back and create the thick cover that New England’s native rabbit needs. The project also involved building three brush piles per acre, hiding sites that cottontails quickly dart into when threatened by foxes or coyotes.

Eppley and Lathrop Audubon Wildlife Refuges, Rhode Island

Audubon in the Thicket of It

(This article by Hugh Markey first appeared in Connecting People With Nature, by Audubon Society of Rhode Island.)

Farmington River Wildlife Management Area, Berkshires, Massachusetts

Building Habitat Around a Healthy Core

Farmington River Wildlife Management Area straddles the border between the southwestern Massachusetts towns of Otis and Becket. It’s the largest landholding owned and managed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) in the Southern Berkshire Focus Area for New England cottontail restoration.