DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — University of New Hampshire researchers tracking the reintroduction of the endangered New England Cottontail in the state have found that the rabbit's survival and reproduction have been successful, but reintroduction itself is not yet self-sustaining.
Wildlife biologists released 42 captively bred rabbits at the Bellamy River Wildlife Management Area in Dover. They've been watched over five years. Of those, six bred in the wild, along with nine of their offspring, resulting in at least 29 wild-born rabbits. Researchers determined that only a small percentage of the original rabbits released survived long enough to reproduce, and survival was highest in the year of the initial release.
“A single reintroduction was not sufficient to keep this isolated population persisting robustly. In the absence of natural immigration, multiple releases of cottontails are needed to prevent negative consequences of unpredictable events, such as mortality during winter snowstorms. These can lead to population decline, skewed sex ratios, and decreased genetic diversity," said Adrienne Kovach of the New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station at UNH.
It's estimated that there are fewer than 100 cottontails in New Hampshire today.