Habitat Projects Helping Cottontails

Bunker Creek Tract and Hills Forest, Strafford County

Good Shrubs In, Bad Shrubs Out, Rabbits on the Rise

Even small projects can improve and link young forest and shrubland while, at the same time, showcasing cooperation between conservation partners – in this case, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (known as the Forest Society) and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, on whose side-by-side properties managers are creating great bunny habitat.

Bellamy River Wildlife Management Area, Strafford County

A Host of Techniques Create Real Rabbit Habitat

Machines clanking through fields, planting shrub seeds. Log skidders piling newly cut trees at a landing. Industrial-strength mowers chopping down old, past-their-prime shrubs so they’ll grow back as thick cover. Conservationists are using all of these techniques and more to turn Bellamy River WMA into a habitat showcase while boosting the local cottontail population.

Ram Island Farm, Cumberland County

A Farm’s Ongoing Commitment to Cottontails

Can a family farm make habitat for New England cottontails and still remain a working, profitable enterprise? Absolutely, says John Greene, property manager at historic Ram Island Farm on Cape Elizabeth in southern Maine.

Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area, Cumberland County

Clearcutting Replaces Winds and Fires

In times past, Scarborough Marsh must have seen Atlantic hurricanes topple trees, and uncontrolled fires rage across the land. But no hurricane has come calling in decades, and we have suppressed wildfires. The result? Lots of middle-aged woods, and little shrubland or young forest. So in 2011, conservationists used clearcut logging to replicate, in a carefully planned way, the effects of landscape-altering storms and wildfires.

Crescent Beach, Two Lights, and Kettle Cove State Parks, Cumberland County

Making Habitat on a Spectacular Coast

These parks are a haven for humans with their shifting light and changing weather, their rocky headlands, their forests and brushy fields alive with wildlife. Bunnies probably don’t spend much time looking at the view: They’re hunkered down in shrub thickets, or feeding busily in grassy strips mowed in old fields. This area hosts what is probably Maine’s largest population of New England cottontails. (Watch one in action here.)

Highland Farm Preserve, York County

An Old Farm Welcomes Wildlife and People

This scenic old farm almost got turned into a 37-house subdivision. Today Highland Farm Preserve is a wildlife paradise with its old fields and pastures, young forest, rock outcroppings, and vernal ponds. Conservationists are cutting down trees and planting shrubs to help New England cottontails – which means that lots of other wildlife benefit, too. Take a walk on the New England Cottontail Trail, or learn more here . . . .

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, York and Cumberland Counties

Wildlife Hotspots in the Making

Saws whined and trees thumped the ground as loggers harvested oaks and pines. Using shovels, digging bars, and plenty of elbow grease, volunteers planted native shrubs in old fields. These very different efforts are creating much-needed homes for New England cottontails, along with a host of other wild creatures from tiny flycatchers to furtive bobcats.

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, York County

Growing Great Habitat on a Research Reserve

A few years back, a big yellow machine spent a day on Wells Reserve acting like a giant lawnmower, cutting down old shrubs that weren’t doing much for wildlife. How can shearing off shrubs help wild animals? And what else have conservationists done at Wells Reserve to boost the local New England cottontail population?