Bringing Back the Bunnies: The Trustees of Reservations to Improve Wildlife Habitat at Mashpee River Reservation

Contact Information

Nancy Durfee
Southeast Engagement Manager
Westport Field Office
830 Main Road, Westport, MA 02790
508.636.9604 x106
NDurfee@ttor.org

Mashpee, MAMarch 1, 2013 – The Trustees of Reservations announced today their Mashpee River Reservation Wildlife Habitat Preservation project is well underway now that much of the recent snowfall has melted and is expected to be completed by the end of the month. The Trustees have received technical and financial assistance from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve habitat for the New England cottontail, which is currently listed as a candidate of “Greatest Conservation Need,” as well as other wildlife inhabiting its 248-acre Mashpee River Reservation. Introduced in the early 1900s, the Eastern cottontail is often confused with the New New England Cotton TailEngland cottontail. The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to the Northeast. Once common and widespread across New England and New York, the cottontail’s range has decreased by 86% during the past 50 years, primarily due to habitat loss. It is now restricted to small isolated populations in parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern New York. In Massachusetts, the cottontail is primarily limited to Cape Cod. Without conservation efforts designed to restore healthy New England cottontail populations, this species faces possible extinction.

In 2006, the New England cottontail was identified as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. Subsequently, a variety of regional initiatives and funding opportunities are working to help reverse the decline by increasing the amount of suitable early successional habitat (young forests) across their range. The Trustees’ Mashpee River Reservation project will improve habitat on 50 acres by reducing tree cover to encourage the dense regeneration of shrubs, saplings, and vines preferred by cottontails. Increasing the growth of understory vegetation will create a safe environment where the rabbits can more easily find food, rear their young, and escape predators. Forest thinning equipment is on site through March and the project should take roughly four weeks to complete.

New England Cotton TailIn addition to enhancing habitat for New England cottontails, proposed management at Mashpee River Reservation will benefit numerous other species including: black racer and hognose snakes, box turtle, ruffed grouse, whip-poor-will, bobwhite, prairie warbler, Eastern towhee, woodcock, field sparrow, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, gray catbird, oak hairstreak and many moth species.

For more information about The Trustees and the Mashpee River Reservation, please visit www.thetrustees.org. Please visit www.newenglandcottontail.org for more information about the New England cottontail.

About The Trustees of Reservations in the Southeast
The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) own and manage some 15 reservations in Plymouth, Bristol, Barnstable, Nantucket and Dukes Counties including Mashpee River Reservation, Copicut Woods in Fall River and Slocum’s River Reserve in Dartmouth to name a few.. These properties contain some of the most spectacular natural, historic and cultural resources in Massachusetts. To find out more about The Trustees in the Southeast, please call 508.636.4993.

About The Trustees
The Trustees of Reservations is the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891 to “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of scenic, cultural, and natural significance for current and future generations to enjoy. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 109 spectacular reservations located throughout Massachusetts and work to promote healthy, active, and green communities. Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation and preservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. One of the largest nonprofits in Massachusetts, The Trustees employ 150 full-time, 49 regular part-time, and 400 seasonal staff with expertise in education, cultural resources, land protection, ecology, conservation, land management, and planning. To find out more or to become a member or volunteer, please contact www.thetrustees.org.