Habitat Projects Helping Cottontails

Stonyfield Yogurt, Rockingham County

Keeping a "Stronghold" Strong

It was a crisp, clear day in February when a band of biologists and interested onlookers went looking for cottontail sign in a thicket at Stonyfield Yogurt's Londonderry, New Hampshire, plant.

"Sign" consisted of rabbit pellets and tracks in the snow.

Calls rang out: “I just found a run!” (The “run” was a path laid down by New England cottontails.) "Got some pellets over here!" (The pellets were the small, brown droppings left by the rabbits.)

White Memorial Foundation, Litchfield County

If We Build It, They Will Come

Forty-five acres of renewed rabbit habitat and 83 brushpiles where wildlife can find cover: These are part of the conservation mix at White Memorial Foundation, where young forest will attract and support rabbits while educating people to the value of this key habitat.

Goshen Wildlife Management Area, Litchfield County

Land of Goshen, Land of Cottontails?

Out in western Connecticut there’s a 967-acre Wildlife Management Area where conservationists are doing their best to make life easier for New England cottontails, woodcock, ruffed grouse, and the myriad other wild creatures that need young forest.

Groton Sportsman's Club, New London County

A Sportsmen's Club Pitches In

On the Groton Sportsmen’s Club in eastern Connecticut – less than a mile from the Wyassup Block of Pachaug State Forest, and near the border with Rhode Island – club members and state and federal conservationists have teamed up to replace invasive shrubs with native ones while maintaining and improving habitat for New England cottontails.

Pachaug State Forest, New London County

Go Pachaug: It's Number One!

Biologists have long known that the Wyassup Block in eastern Connecticut’s Pachaug State Forest hosts a population of New England cottontails. To keep the habitat healthy and the rabbits happy, biologists and foresters teamed up to make new young forest on this state-managed parcel.

Camp Edwards, Barnstable County

Bunnies and UXO

"Scrub oak is a very resilient plant," says John Kelly, a biologist working for the U.S. Army at Camp Edwards, a 14,433-acre National Guard training center. Fifty miles southeast of Boston, the camp represents the largest chunk of undeveloped land on upper Cape Cod. It includes an exceptionally valuable habitat for New England cottontails: 2,200 acres of scrub oak, shrubland, and forest known as the Impact Area, an artillery practice zone from World War II until 1996.

Cottontail Farm, Windham County

Legacy Project on a Family Farm

The small tracked machine rumbled up to a clump of autumn olive 15 feet broad and 10 feet tall. The shrub was one of many non-native invasive shrubs crowding an old pasture on the aptly named Cottontail Farm in eastern Connecticut. It was a misty morning in May, and birds called from fencerows and hedges. The autumn olive looked dense and bushy, but it wouldn't be that way after leaf-fall and in the winter, because it was an old shrub, open-grown and past its prime.

Gumpas Pond Conservation Area, Hillsborough County

"In-Between Habitat"

Says Pelham Conservation Commission member Chris McCarron, "We have lots of forest and field areas in southern New Hampshire, but the 'in-between' early successional habitat has dwindled – and along with it, the wildlife that need that kind of habitat. Through the logging that's taken place at Gumpas Pond Conservation Area, we hope to help New England cottontails as well as many birds that also need young, regrowing forest habitat."

Lee Five Corners Reserve, Strafford County

Healing a Habitat

Sometimes a chunk of land can look pretty tattered, its contours broken by gravel mining, its topsoil gone, its natural vegetation under siege by invasive shrubs – not very inviting to wildlife. That's how this 22-acre parcel appeared, before the Town of Lee Conservation Commission teamed up with wildlife specialists to do a complete make-over on the property.

LaRoche Brook Tract and Foss Farms, Strafford County

Cottontails and Corridors: Connecting the Habitat

When wild creatures become rare, local populations get separated from one another, making it ever more difficult for individuals to find mates and occupy new habitat once it becomes available. In the fragmented landscape of southern New Hampshire, the state Fish and Game Department is working with the University of New Hampshire to create pockets of cottontail habitat plus habitat corridors between those pockets so that rabbit populations can connect.

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