New England Cottontail Habitat Restoration at Cutts Island

Project #: 1572  –   Updated: January 17, 2011

Project Summary

The New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is the only cottontail rabbit native to Maine and New England. New England cottontails have declined by over 80% of their historic range prompting listing as endangered in Maine and as a candidate for the federal endangered species list. Loss of early successional habitat or "thickets" is the primary factor for this decline. At Rachel Carson NWR, we are in the process of restoring some of these early successional areas to create secure habitat for New England cottontails. We have begun to monitor vegetation at approximately 10 acres ...

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Location (by county):
York County (ME)

Watersheds:
Piscataqua-Salmon Falls

Congressional Districts:
ME District 01

Bird Conservation Regions:
New England/Mid Atlantic Coast

USFWS Regions:
Northeast Region

Project size:
10.42 acres

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Cutts Island Management Areas No

Full Project Description

The New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is the only cottontail rabbit native to Maine and New England. New England cottontails have declined by over 80% of their historic range prompting listing as endangered in Maine and as a candidate for the federal endangered species list. Loss of early successional habitat or "thickets" is the primary factor for this decline. At Rachel Carson NWR, we are in the process of restoring some of these early successional areas to create secure habitat for New England cottontails. We have begun to monitor vegetation at approximately 10 acres of Cutts Island to rigorously test if our management is creating suitable habitat. We plan on removing invasive species, planting native shrubs, removing overstory vegetation, and potentially using prescribed fire. Volunteers will assist in a large part of our effort.

Project Assistance & Partnership Opportunities

Volunteers

We often recruit volunteers to help with invasive plant removal, shrub planting, and monitoring cottontails during the winter through track and pellet collections.

Goals and Targets

Primary motivations:

Conservation Mission

Primary goals:

Increased native species composition, woody stem density. and native species cover (reduced invasive species cover).
Progress:

We monitoring vegetation to get a baseline species composition, stem density, and percent cover. We will revisit this site on an annual basis to re-evaluate our progress.

To establish or enhance a population of New England cottontail.
Progress:

We not only have monitored vegetation at this site but have begun to search for cottontail tracks, pellets and browse in a systematic manner (transects). Over time we hope to observe establishment of cottontails at this site.

Targeted habitats:

    • Shrublands and Grasslands
      • Shrublands and Steppe

Targeted species:

  • New England Cottontail Sylvilagus transitionalis

Actions

Project Actions
Plant native trees and/or shrubs, herbs, forbs, grasses Show/Hide details
Vegetation monitoring Show/Hide details
Other: Create suitable habitat for rare cottontail Show/Hide details
Other: Monitoring use by New England cottontail Show/Hide details

Outcomes

Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   Yes

Please describe your monitoring activity.

We are monitoring our success by measuring habitat variables such as stem counts, percent cover, species composition and their change over time. We will also be monitoring NEC use through winter track and pellet surveys.

What additional information would you like to share?

Enthusiam is building for creating habitat for the New England cottontail. There are federal, state and local conservation agencies and residents and volunteers that have donated their time and effort to recover this species. Thank you!

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Organization

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
(Federal Government)

Primary Contact

Kate O'Brien  (Wildlife Biologist)
USFWS
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Partners

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • Parker River NWR
  • Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex
  • Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Project Photos

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