Easter’s On Its Way, And Peter Cottontail Needs Your Help!

ArrayMarch 28, 2018 at 9:26 am

[caption id="attachment_2798" align="alignright" width="518"] New England cottontails such as this one rely on thickets of dense shrubs and young trees.[/caption] By MDIFW Wildlife Biologist Cory Stearns With Easter nearly here, you might find yourself breaking into renditions of “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail, hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on it’s way!” But, what happens when Mr. Cottontail has nowhere to hop? That’s the problem facing Maine’s only native cottontail rabbit, the state Endangered New England cottontail. They once ranged from Kittery to Belfast, and as far inland as Porter, Auburn, and Augusta. Now, they are restricted to just a few disjunct populations south of Portland. The primary reason for their decline is that the amount of suitable habitat has decreased and become highly fragmented. In other words, there’s not many places for them to hop in, and they need to overcome many obstacles (e.g., roads, human development) when they try to hop from place to place. So, Peter and the rest of his cottontail pals could use your help. New England cottontails rely on thickets of dense shrubs and young trees. By promoting this important habitat type on your property (through a timber harvest or other means), you could provide a boost to cottontail populations that they desperately need. In doing so, you could also benefit many other young forest dependent species (e.g., American woodcock, prairie warbler, brown thrashers) that are in decline. If you’re interested in managing for New England cottontails on your property, contact New England cottontail Restoration Coordinator Jeff Tash at: jeffrey_tash@fws.gov or 646-9226 Ext 32; or MDIFW regional wildlife biologist Cory Stearns at: cory.r.stearns@maine.gov for recommendations and technical assistance. In some cases, financial assistance may be available for cottontail habitat enhancement.