January 30, 2023
- as seen by -Craig Gibbs
The new Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, marks an excellent opportunity to talk about one of our ongoing conservation programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo – the New England Cottontail Restoration.”
Populations of the vulnerable native New England cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus transitionalis) have declined significantly, largely due to loss of its preferred habitat of heavy thicket that provides food and cover. It also can’t compete with its larger, introduced relative, the eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Its numbers have been reduced to just five small populations spread throughout New England and New York state.
The New England cottontail’s release by state wildlife agencies represents a cooperative project that encompasses two zoos, six state wildlife agencies, three universities, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and private landowners. It serves as an example of true collaboration where each party lends its specific expertise to advance the conservation of a species. USFWS and several state agencies are using this rabbit restoration program as a model for future projects, both in the United States and in other parts of the world.