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New England Cottontail

Scientific name: Sylvilagus transitionalis

The New England cottontail is a vulnerable species whose numbers have diminished greatly over the last century. The reason for this is habitat loss. The rabbit requires a linked corridor of dense thickets, known as shrublands, in order to evade predators and maintain genetic diversity. They are easy targets without a good hiding spot, especially in winter, as their brown fur stands out against the white snow.



Up to 2 pounds


14 inches

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Herbivorous. This means that an animals eats only plants.


Shrubby areas, dense thickets.

Life Cycle

The rabbit can breed at nine months of age. The season begins in the spring and extends into the fall. Several litters can be produced by one female over that period of time. The mother makes her nest on the ground in a small depression which she digs, and then lines with twigs and her own fur. The young only stay in the nest for two weeks before they can go off independently.

Similar Species

The eastern cottontail is a non-native that was introduced here by hunting clubs about 100 years ago. It has been successful at the expense of the native cottontail.

Ecosystem Connections

Rabbits are short-lived, as they have many predators in the wild. In that respect, they are an important part of the ecosystem. Foxes, hawks, owls, coyote, bobcats and weasels are some of its many natural enemies. The destruction of the native habitat of thickets and other shrubs has made it difficult for the rabbit to find the needed cover to evade these predators.

Learn More

A shrubland is an intermediate phase of forest succession which occurs when a meadow transitions to a forest. Small trees and shrubs start to appear as the meadow has been abandoned, but not yet become a forest. The value of this habitat has not been appreciated, and the animals it once supported have gradually disappeared from Lewisboro. One example is the game bird known as the ruffed grouse.  It was last seen decades ago and that bird, along with others, has been extirpated (became locally extinct) from our county.

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