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Connecticut News

Conservancy Builds Habitat For Threatened Rabbits

Davis Dunavin

The New England Cottontail rabbit used to be common in New England. 85 percent of their habitat disappeared in the last half-century due to human development. The federal government considered listing them as endangered.

Now it says the rabbits are bouncing back, through efforts like a 28-acre nature preserve in Stonington, Connecticut. It’s on a hilly clearing covered with short, brittle bushes and tangles of thorny vines. It’s dotted with piles of dry brush about the size of camping tents. The Avalonia Land Conservancy built it for New England Cottontails and other animals who thrive in this kind of place, like butterflies, turtles and snakes.

Jesse Raymond is a conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As he sifts through one brush pile, he says it’s a perfect home for a rabbit.

“So…basically…if I were a rabbit, what I’d see is little tunnels or pathways that I can hop to and from, and multiple entrances and exits surrounding the entire piles,” he said. “The denser, the thicker it is, the better for a rabbit.”

“If we can't get through, maybe a coyote can't get through it. Maybe a bobcat can't get through it. Maybe a hawk can't dive through it," said Beth Sullivan with the Avalonia Land Conservancy. "It’s tangled, cluttered, messy, full of hiding places.”

The rabbit needs to be able to hide from predators, so it needs thick plants that are hard to see through. More than 300 acres of land in Connecticut have been converted to this kind of habitat. Conservationists say families who own land can build these brush piles on their property to serve as rabbit shelters.