The New England cottontail rabbit population has declined to such low numbers that may soon be added to the Endangered Species list. Conservationists in Connecticut have identified some habitat modification plans to help the cotties come back.
Denise Coffey recently reported on the issue for the Canterbury Reminder News. Here are some highlights:
Connecticut has a globally significant New England cottontail population, according to Judy Wilson, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We have a special place in this scheme,” she said. Patchaug State Forest has been ranked the number-one site in the entire region, and an 111-acre clearing will begin there in the fall.
Twelve focus areas have been identified in the state using known and historical locations of the species. Those areas with their particular landscape features show potential for good habitat. And because there are large patches of state parks, land trusts and protected lands, the hope is that Connecticut will serve as an important springboard for the species recovery. Key indicators have been found in Torrington, Litchfield, Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, and private properties in both Stonington and Lyme. Results are still pending for 80 samples collected from the Scotland-Canterbury Focus Area.
What the rabbits need are young forest habitats. They need thickets, seedling and sapling growth, young forest shrubs. “If you can’t walk in it, it’s probably good for them,” Wilson said. And because there are so few areas in the state that provide that, part of Wilson’s job is to reach out to landowners who might be interested in participating in the project.
While not a focus area, Broome and Smith will participate in the project because they believe in their responsibility as stewards of the land. And while the clear-cutting will benefit New England cottontails, it will also benefit a host of other birds and animals that need early successional habitat to survive.
To read the full article please go to http://www.remindernews.com/article/2013/08/26/canterbury-welcomes-new-england-cottontail-rabbits
New England cottontails are different from the more common Eastern cottontails that were brought into the area about 100 years ago, and are not in as much danger for survival. It is ironic that the habitat change causing the New England cotties problems is not destruction but growth. Hoppington Post is happy that Connecticut conservationists have not only identified the problem but seem to have come up with a viable solution and are well underway to implementing it.