As spring arrives in New Hampshire, it’s a good time to be on the lookout for rabbits. And if you see one, you could become part of a statewide effort to gather data on how many rabbits are in New Hampshire, and where they live.
Haley Andreozzi, the wildlife outreach program manager at UNH, helps run the rabbit reporting program. She said one of their goals is to educate Granite Staters about the endangered New England Cottontail. There are fewer than 100 New England Cottontails in the state, and Andreozzi says the rabbit reporting program can be a resource for people to learn about conservation efforts and habitat requirements for those rabbits.
Another goal, Andreozzi said, is to help the state gather data on a different rabbit: the non-native Eastern Cottontail. New Hampshire scientists have seen those rabbits expand their range and increase in numbers, she said, but they don’t have a full understanding of where those rabbits have expanded to, and how many of them live in the state.
“The sightings in New Hampshire rabbit reports are helping us learn a lot more about that species,” she said.
Eastern Cottontails entered the state in the early 1990s, and they’ve started moving northward. While New England Cottontails prefer a specific kind of habitat – shrubland that is 20 acres or larger – Eastern Cottontails are more likely to venture out into human-dominated landscapes like a golf course or a backyard, Andreozzi said.
As landscapes in New Hampshire have been developed and fragmented, habitat for New England Cottontails has diminished, and the population of Eastern Cottontails has grown.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is hoping to do a strategic sampling for Eastern Cottontail rabbits to get a better picture of their population, and each sighting helps determine where those surveys might take place.
Andreozzi says since the start of the project in 2017, they’ve received almost 1,300 sightings of rabbits in New Hampshire.
And every sighting helps. Granite Staters who spot a bunny in their backyard or on a spring adventure should be sure to record the date, time, and location of their sighting – and a photo, if they can snag one.
This story is part of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New Hampshire Public Radio.