Biologists seek Maine sightings of New England cottontail
The New England cottontail (NEC) is Maine’s only native true rabbit, and was once common in southern Maine, according to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in a news release. However, NEC populations have declined dramatically in Maine and across their entire range due to habitat loss.
“Today, NEC are known to occur in just 6 towns: Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Wells, York, Kittery, and Eliot; with a statewide population of less than 300 individuals,” said MDIFW. “MDIFW is working with partners to restore Maine’s NEC, but we need more eyes!”
If you see a rabbit that might be a New England cottontail, MDIFW wants to hear about it. MDIFW will conduct surveys in the vicinity of credible sightings to search for currently unknown populations.
“Any new confirmations of the species will greatly enhance our restoration effort by allowing us to protect the population and provide additional opportunities for us to conduct habitat management that will ultimately increase Maine’s cottontail population,” said the release.
If you see a rabbit that might be a New England cottontail or an Eastern cottontail, please take note of the following and report the sighting online:
- What habitat the rabbit was in (shrubs, forest, backyard, etc.)
- Characteristics of what led you to believe it was a cottontail (please do not report known snowshoe hares) – view these identification tips
- If you can grab a photo, even better! MDIFW suspects sightings only in southern and coastal Maine.
What does a New England cottontail look like?
- Medium-sized rabbits
- 14-17 inches long
- 1-2.5 pounds
- Dark brown fur with a wash of black-tipped fur
- Black edge to their ears
- Black spot between the ears (typically not seen at a distance)