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Maine Seeks Cottontail Sightings

The Maine Dept. of Inland Fish & Wildlife is asking the public to report sightings of rare New England Cottontail Rabbits (NEC) in southern part of the state. The New England cottontail, or “cooney”, is Maine’s only native true rabbit, and was once common from Kittery to Belfast. However, populations have declined dramatically across their entire range (New England and eastern New York). The species was listed as State Endangered in 2007, and its current statewide population is estimated at fewer than 300 individuals.

Today, NEC are known to occur in six towns: Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Wells, York, Kittery, and Eliot. The range-wide decline of NEC has been attributed to habitat loss, particularly old fields, shrubland, and young forest—habitats that provide dense cover and protection from predators.

MDIFW is working collaboratively with many partners to restore Maine’s cottontail populations. Habitat creation and enhancement is the largest aspect of the restoration effort.

As part of this effort, the MDIFW is asking the public to report potential NEC sightings. Once a credible sighting has been received, MDIFW will conduct surveys to search for currently unknown populations.

Cottontail ID

Medium-sized rabbit

14-17” long

1-2.5 lbs.

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)

 

Learn more or report a sighting.

 

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