Sometimes you do need to cut down trees

Sure, you probably don't want to go crawling around in this. But it's a paradise for the rare New England cottontail, and this young forest and shrubland habitat has also become increasingly rare in New England. We have more mature forest than we did 50 years ago. The natural forces that once managed the cycle of young and mature forest are now kept in check by people, and we need more young forest. Credit: USFWS
Sure, you probably don't want to go crawling around in this. But it's a paradise for the rare New England cottontail, and this young forest and shrubland habitat has also become increasingly rare in New England. We have more mature forest than we did 50 years ago. The natural forces that once managed the cycle of young and mature forest are now kept in check by people, and we need more young forest. Credit: USFWS

Sure, you probably don’t want to go crawling around in this. But it’s a paradise for the rare New England cottontail and many other types of wildlife. This young forest and shrubland habitat has also become increasingly rare in New England. We have more mature forest than we did 50 years ago. The natural forces that once managed the cycle of young and mature forest are now kept in check by people, and we need more young forest. Credit: USFWS

While New England cottontails might look like eastern cottontails, they're two different species. New England cottontails are native, and eastern cottontails were introduced to New England in the early 20th Century. They use different habitats, and an extremely close look reveals differences in eyes and other physical traits. Credit: New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

While New England cottontails might look like eastern cottontails, they’re two different species. New England cottontails are native, and eastern cottontails were introduced to New England in the early 20th Century. They use different habitats, and an extremely close look reveals differences in eyes and other physical traits. Credit: New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

In areas across southern New Hampshire, efforts are underway to conserve the natural habitat of the region’s only native rabbit, the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis).

Our agency, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and private groups are working together to restore the young forest and shrubland habitat that these rare rabbits depend on. [What’s young forest? Find out here.]

The need for young forests has been overshadowed in the push to allow fields and woods to mature into old growth forest composed of large trees that offer little protection for this rabbit against predators. As young forest and shrubland disappeared from much of the Northeast’s landscape, the population of New England cottontails dropped.

Check out other stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast – We’ve shared them throughout the year!

With the rabbits occupying less than a fifth of their historic range, their decline led to a decision by the Service in 2006 to list the cottontail as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. As the overall population dwindled, the remaining cottontails became isolated in pockets of suitable habitat—making restoration even more difficult. Expanding and reconnecting these fragmented populations is crucial to the conservation of species.

In places like LaRoche Brook Tract and Foss Farm in Strafford County, conservationists are working to connect suitable patches of New England cottontail by creating long highways of suitable cover, through which the rabbits can move to find suitable food and shelter.

Here’s a series of photos illustrating young forest restoration at one site in New Hampshire. Click on the top photo to scroll through the series with captions and larger images.

To restore young forest, conservationists harvest trees with trunks exceeding two inches in diameter during the winter time, leaving the root systems intact. In the spring, these roots sprout new trees, and conservationists seed with native shrubs and create brushpiles to shelter wildlife. Invasive plant species are also removed to clear the way for native plants that evolved alongside New England cottontails. …Keep reading to find out how it worked!

6 Comments on “Sometimes you do need to cut down trees

  1. Reblogged this on anthonyvenable110 and commented:
    Interesting how the rabbits are so different, I had no idea there was so much variation between the two species.

      • Your very welcome. In that case, they dont compete with one another then.

      • The degree to which eastern cottontails and New England cottontails compete is uncertain. Biologists believe that their larger eyes and sharper vision lets Eastern cottontails venture farther from protective cover while remaining able to spot and evade predators. Eastern cottontails seem better able to survive in the fragmented habitats of southern New England, including open fields, forest edges, small thickets, and even golf courses and suburban lawns. In many smaller habitat patches, Eastern cottontails have replaced New England cottontails. Eastern cottontails probably do not directly oust New England cottontails from such areas: They may simply be able to survive in habitats that New England cottontails cannot use, and they may be better able to find and occupy new habitats as they become available.

      • Hmm. I notice right across the key bridge from dc there are lots of eastern cottontails over there. The area has like open grassy areas and yards.

      • Hmm. I notice right across the key bridge from dc there are lots of eastern cottontails over there. The area has like open grassy areas and yards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: