CONTACT:
Heidi Holman: 603-271-2461
Jane Vachon: 603-271-3211
December 10, 2012

Special Fundraising Effort Underway to Help Restore New England Cottontails

New England cottontail, NH Fish and Game photo
A special fundraising effort is underway to help restore the endangered New England cottontail. MEDIA: for print-quality photo, click on image (large file).

CONCORD, N.H. – Nine New England cottontails that were born and raised in captivity now call New Hampshire home. They are here as a result of a major effort among six states to restore their population and protect them before they disappear forever. A special fundraising effort is now underway through the N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program to support this multi-faceted restoration effort for New Hampshire’s only native cottontail.

The nine New England cottontails were born in a captive-breeding facility at the Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island earlier this year. In September, they were transported to a special outdoor pen at the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Newington, N.H., where they will spend the winter while transitioning to life in the wild.

In addition to captive breeding, on-the-ground habitat restoration is helping to create more of the shrubland habitat that New England cottontails need for food and shelter. This winter, biologists will provide supplemental food and will be monitoring areas where wild New England cottontails are known to still occur.

The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is seeking public support for this exciting restoration effort. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301. (Make checks payable to NH Fish and Game/Nongame Program.) For a print-and-mail contribution form, visit wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/support_nongame.htm.

New England cottontails are endangered in New Hampshire and are a candidate for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act. They occur in parts of southern Maine, southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and southeastern New York. Their current distribution is less than a fifth of their historic range. These native rabbits are 15-17 inches in length, with a brown and gray coat that does not change color with the seasons. They often have a black spot between the ears and a black line on the edge of the ears, which can help distinguish between them from Eastern cottontails, but these features are not always present.

New England cottontails are active year round at dawn, dusk and at night. In the summer, they feed on grasses and forbs, and in the winter they eat bark, twigs and buds of shrubs and young trees. They have 3-8 young in a litter and may have 2-3 litters per year.

Conservation partners working together to restore New England cottontails throughout their range include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its Partners for Wildlife; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; state fish and wildlife agencies in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York; the Wildlife Management Institute; Roger Williams Park Zoo; the University of New Hampshire; and the University of Rhode Island. Additional conservation partners in New Hampshire include the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, N.H. Audubon, the Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve, and the towns of Lee, Durham,
Londonderry and Pelham.

For more information about New England cottontails and the range-wide recovery effort, visit newenglandcottontail.org.

The N.H. Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is the steward for species not hunted, fished or trapped. Through wildlife monitoring and management, plus outreach and education, the Nongame Program works to protect over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as thousands of insects and other invertebrates. Learn more at wildnh.com/nongame.

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