New England cottontail vanishing from RI

PROVIDENCE, RI – Researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Department of Environmental Management say the New England cottontail has nearly disappeared from Rhode Island.

State wildlife biologist Brian Tefft says researchers have been monitoring the species since the 1960's and started seeing a drop in its population in the early 90's. He says some of it has to do with the fact that the New England cottontail's eyes are small and close together making it difficult to see lurking predators. Tefft says that combined with the loss of habitat makes the New England cottontail vulnerable.

"The predators that are running around, the foxes, coyotes, are better able to exploit the rabbits because the rabbit's living in inferior habitat, if you will," says Tefft. "And in inferior habitat they can't survive as well in better habitat."

Tefft says the state is looking at raising New England cottontails to boost its population in Rhode Island. URI researchers say the species has pretty much left New Hampshire its populations are thin in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine.

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