All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Maine's Endangered Cottontails

Maine's New England cottontail population is shrinking, with only about 300 animals remaining. State and local officals are looking at ways to improve their habitat, which now comprises "53 disparate sites from Freeport south." Hunting of cottontails was banned two years ago, and the rabbits may soon be placed on the state and federal endangered species lists.
New England cottontails, also called coneys or cooneys, are the only true rabbits in Maine, according to a 2004 study done by John Litvaitis, a University of New Hampshire professor, and Wally Jakubas, the mammal group leader at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

Maine also has snowshoe hares, a cousin of the rabbit. Snowshoe hares live in forests, not fields, and are larger than cottontails, with bigger hind feet. They turn from brown to white in winter. New England cottontails are medium-sized, range in color from dark brown to brownish yellow and have a distinctive black spot between their ears. [Link]
The USFWS has a profile (PDF) of the species. This page from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife offers some handy "Tips on How to Avoid Shooting New England Cottontails," and a map showing where cottontails have been spotted.
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