Northeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America

New England cottontail:
Rabbit at risk

Disappearing rabbit trick

Photo of New England cottontail

Credit: Southern New England - New York Bight Coastal Program/USFWS

Why would a rabbit, the epitome of prolific breeding, be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act? The New England cottontail is in just this predicament. Its population numbers are declining. As recently as 1960, New England cottontails were found east of the Hudson River in New York, across all of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, north to southern Vermont and New Hampshire, and into southern Maine. Today, this rabbit's range has shrunk by about 86 percent. Its numbers are so greatly diminished that it can no longer be found in Vermont and has been reduced to only five smaller populations throughout its historic range.

Where the bunnies are

The New England cottontail prefers early successional forests, often called thickets, with thick and tangled vegetation. These young forests are generally less than 25 years old. Once large trees grow in a stand, the shrub layer tends to thin, creating habitat that the New England cottontail no longer finds suitable.

Visit www.newenglandcottontail.org to learn more about the effort to save New England's only native rabbit.

Fact Sheets

New England cottontail status and background (PDF) (USFWS and NRCS, June 2011)

Rabbit at Risk: Conserving the New England cottontail across its range (PDF) (USFWS, May 2011)

New England cottontail species information (PDF) (USFWS, April 2009)

FAQs (PDF) (April 2009)

Multimedia

Students help New England rabbits (YouTube video) (2011)

New England Cottontail Conservation (YouTube video) (2010)

Photos

Life History, Status and Management of the New England Cottontail (PowerPoint)

Endangered Species Bulletin: The Fox People Care for a Rabbit (PDF) (Summer 2008), pg. 20

News releases:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: New Hampshire and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will partner with landowners to restore New England cottontail habitat (April 19, 2011)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Comments sought on New England cottontail land conservation proposal in southern New Hampshire (Oct. 27, 2010)

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: $290,000 in grants will support New England cottontail restoration in Maine and New Hampshire (Feb. 23, 2009)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $290,000 in grants will support New England cottontail restoration in Maine and New Hampshire (Jan. 14, 2009)

For more information:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances - Questions and Answers (April 2011)

New England Cottontail Surveys on Ten National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the New England Cottontail in Southern New Hampshire (PDF 907KB)

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection: Cottontail Rabbits (1999), Radio-collared Cottontail Rabbits Being Followed (2002)

Defenders of Wildlife: Restoring native shrublands for New England Cottontail in Southern Maine, On the Ground: Rabbit, Run (Summer 2008);

Environmental Defense Fund: New England Cottontail Habitat Management (2008); A Landowners Guide to New England Cottontail Habitat Management (2008)

Federal Register: Proposed Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances between the Service and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (Oct. 27, 2010)

Draft Programmatic Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the New England Cottontail in Southern New Hampshire (Oct. 13, 2010)

Draft Environmental Action Statement (2010)

Permit Application (2010)

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: Cottontails in Massachusetts; New England Cottontail fact sheet

NatureServe: New England Cottontail

NECottontail.com

New Hampshire's Wildlife Action Plan News & Updates : The New England Cottontail: A Species in Decline (Winter 2009)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Refuge Update: Recovering the New England Cottontail (May/June 2009, p. 5)

 
Last updated: January 31, 2012