Habitat Projects Helping Cottontails

Monterey Preservation Land Trust, Berkshires, Massachusetts

Young Forest Project Delivers Multiple Benefits

Light-loving trees and shrubs, a suite of songbirds, ruffed grouse, deer, black bears – and, conservationists hope, eventually New England cottontails – should all benefit from timber harvests begun in 2014 on Monterey Preservation Land Trust’s 383-acre Mount Hunger property in Berkshire County, western Massachusetts.

Narrow River Land Trust, Rhode Island

Land Trust’s Role Includes Actively Managing Habitat

“We know the population of the New England cottontail rabbit has fallen rangewide,” says Gary Casabona, a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) biologist based in Warwick, R.I. “Here in Rhode Island, the species’ decline has been especially dramatic. It’s also been hard to quantify, thanks to a lookalike rabbit, the eastern cottontail, that’s also found across the state.”

Avalonia Land Conservancy, Southeastern Connecticut

The Avalonia Land Conservancy holds more than 3,200 acres in eight towns in southeastern Connecticut, most of them in the Ledyard-Coastal Focus Area for New England cottontail restoration. In 2011, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the conservancy consider making young forest to help cottontails on two of their parcels.

Boyd Woods Audubon Sanctuary, Western Connecticut

Bringing Back Birdsong and Cottontails

In 1995, an heir of Margery Boyd gave the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society (LHAS) a beautiful 102-acre tract a mile and a half south of the town of Litchfield in western Connecticut. The property, Twin Brook Farm, was graced with meadows, thickets, vernal ponds, rock outcroppings, and woods – plenty of woods. LHAS designated the property the Boyd Woods Audubon Sanctuary. One of three LHAS sanctuaries, it is now a popular destination for hikers and wildlife-watchers.

Tolland and Granville Area, Berkshires

Hunting Clubs, Private Landowners Give Cottontails a Helping Hand

Two hunting clubs, several private landowners, and a water authority are making young forest habitat that will help New England cottontails and other wildlife move more freely across the landscape in the Berkshires and increase their overall numbers in these largely wooded uplands of southwestern Massachusetts.

Clam River Reserve, Berkshires

Patience Pays When Making a Home for Cottontails and Other Wildlife

"On a project like this one, patience is key," said Doug Bruce, stewardship manager for the Berskshire Natural Resources Council. Bruce stood in a brand new 25-acre habitat project on BNRC’s 550-acre Clam River Reserve. "Sometimes you need to think about things on a natural time scale rather than a human time scale," he added.

Becket Land Trust, Berkshires

Merging Forest Management and Wildlife Goals

“This timber harvest will create new habitat for wildlife, including New England cottontails,” said Ken Smith on a gray November afternoon as he looked over a 40-acre cut on the Becket Land Trust’s Historic Quarry and Forest property. “At the same time, it will also help rejuvenate a forest stand that had been harmed by poor timber-cutting practices in the past.”

Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area, New York

Carving Out Cottontail Habitat in a Forested Setting

Cranberry Mountain Wildlife Management Area includes 469 mainly forested acres, with some grassy and weedy fields, on a mountain east of the Hudson River where New York’s Putnam and Dutchess counties meet. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) owns and manages the property.

Open to the public, the WMA is maintained as wildlife habitat. It’s also in a Focus Area for conserving the New England cottontail.

Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area, Rhode Island

Wildlife Follow Corridors Between Habitats

Powerlines transmit much-needed electricity, and they can also serve a completely different function: provide movement corridors for wildlife. That’s what’s happening on a right-of-way that bisects 3,745-acre Great Swamp Wildlife Management Area in southern Rhode Island.

South Mashpee Pine Barrens, Cape Cod

Restoring Pine Barrens Habitat for Wildlife

The goal: Restore a neglected pine barrens on Upper Cape Cod to a productive ecosystem where New England cottontails, box turtles, buckmoths, whip-poor-wills, and dozens of other rare animals and plants can thrive.