New England Cottontail Habitat Restoration at Cutts Island

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 ...

Project Map

Publicly Accessible: No
County: York County, ME
Project Size:
  • 10.42 acres

Project Sites

  • Cutts Island Management Areas (Not publicly accessible)

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

Conservation Actions

Action Status Start Year End Year
Plant native trees and/or shrubs, herbs, forbs, grasses Proposed 2009 --
Vegetation monitoring In Progress 2008 --
Other - Species conservation and management: Create suitable habitat for rare cottontail In Progress 2008 --
Other - Monitoring: Monitoring use by New England cottontail In Progress 2009 --


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

Monitoring Activities
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.

Any Additional Information About The Project
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!

Quick Facts

Owning Organization

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Managing Organization

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
(Federal Government)

Contact Information

Kate O'Brien (Wildlife Biologist)

General Information

Project #: 1572
Last Updated: January 17, 2011

Project Relations


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

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