New England Cottontails are disappearing but not into a hat.

New England Cottontail
I learned something unexpected during our annual land trust meeting on Monday. New England Cottontails are being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. When you’re thinking of rabbits, don’t you think in terms of many, many rabbits? If there is a stereotype about rabbits, it has to do with prolific breeding. A visitor from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gave us a new picture: A reduction in thicket habitat is the primary reason for the decline in New England Cottontail numbers. Rabbits living on small patches of thicket deplete their food supply sooner. This leaves them with two choices: eat lower quality food and compromise their health or search for food in more risky areas. Another fact that our visitor shared when talking about reasons for the Cottontail’s decline I found interesting: The eyes of a New England Cottontail are set closer to the front of the face than the Eastern Cottontail’s. Consequently the Eastern Cottontail’s peripheral vision is better. It can see an owl from 30 yards away, while the New England Cottontail will see that same owl when it is 10 yards away. So let’s get the word out, the New England Cottontail is in need of protected habitat and public awareness.

For more information and ways to help see links below:
Kids who care about New England Cottontails

Eye Help Animals

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service New England Cottontail

Rabbit at Risk

A Landowner’s Guide to New England Cottontail Habitat Management

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0 Responses to New England Cottontails are disappearing but not into a hat.

  1. cynthia powers says:

    i have at least one and possibly more families of rabbits on the farm. i can safely say there were at least 2 litters of babies this year. how do i know if they are new england cottontails, or eastern cottontails? they love the groupings of bushes that we have; forsythia, lilac, etc. i’ve left them overgrown, even though the bunnies are quite a nuisance (in the herb garden, particularly). they ate my dill down the surface, ditto the lettuce, and denuded the swiss chard and cabbage! next year when i plant, it’ll be “one for me, one for the bunnies, one for me….”

    • A DNA test is needed to determine whether the rabbits are Eastern Cottontails or New England Cottontails. The DNA can be obtain through rabbit droppings on your property. Check out the Landowner’s Guide to New England Cottontail Habitat Management and/ or contact U.S. Fish & Wildlife Management.

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