Satellite image of Cape Cod.

Rare rabbits seen from space!

OK. So that’s not quite right. But it’s close.

From space, NASA saw the fire plume from a prescribed burn on Cape Cod at the end of April. The 210-acre burn was on Massachusetts Military Reservation, also known as Camp Edwards, and was carefully performed to improve the scrub oak and pitch pine habitat for the rare New England cottontail.

Satellite image of Cape Cod.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. See original on NASA site.

While this rare rabbit looks a lot like the ones you’ve seen outdoors, the New England cottontail is found only in the thick tangles and vines of just five spots across New England and New York. It’s also New England’s only native rabbit.

The young forest required by this rabbit is naturally managed by floods, fires and storms. Today, we prevent many such disturbances and instead rely on strategic techniques such as logging, mowing and controlled/prescribed burns.

Bunny astronaut

We had to have a little fun with this! Created by Kathy Whittemore/USFWS

Army biologists teamed up with staff from at least 10 different agencies, organizations and towns to pull off this successful burn. The group aims to restore about 1,000 acres of young forest for the cottontail and the dozens of other species that use it.

The cottontails just love the habitat that has been created thus far. NASA can expect the next plume from this reservation this fall.


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