New England cottontail rabbits

New England cottontail rabbit
This is an image of a New England cottontail rabbit at Roger Williams Park Zoo. (WLNE)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — In recent years, we seem to have an explosion of rabbits locally.

While the eastern cottontail rabbit is invasive, obviously prolific and adaptable, its cousin the New England cottontail rabbit is in real trouble. It is estimated there are only 13,000 of these rare rabbits left.

The New England cottontail is a native species whose numbers have dwindled mainly due to habitat loss. It is very finicky and requires overgrown scrub, young forest and shrubs to find food and make homes to raise their offspring. Development of such land in New England has had a devastating impact on this species. In fact, the last one seen in the wild in Rhode Island was in 2006.

Since 2010, conservation efforts at Roger Williams Park Zoo have led to the reintroduction and release of 400 New England Cottontails, mainly on Patience Island. Despite their reputation, these rabbits need careful attention and assistance to breed.

At the Roger Williams Park Zoo, a special section has been set aside for this purpose. Out of view of the public in a quiet corner of the zoo, conservation biologists work to breed and raise the babies for reintroduction into the wild.

Categories: Scientifically Speaking