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The New England Cottontail

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by

Andrea Montgomery

on 13 April 2014

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Transcript of The New England Cottontail

The New England Cottontail:
Save the Bunnies!

Responsive processes - The New England Cottontail is more active during dawn, dusk, or at night. The population has adapted to live successfully in early succesional forests as evidenced by their coat colors, body shape, and body size (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006).
Characteristics of Living Organisms
The New England Cottontail is a living organism as defined by the following 5 characteristics (Tillery, Enger, & Ross, 2008):
Metabolic processes - New England Cottontails take in nutrients through their diet of grasses, herbaceous plants, bark, twigs, and buds (Fuller & Tur, 2012).
Nutrients are processed through the digestive system and waste is passed in the form of small, brown, rounded feces pellets (Fergus, 2013).
Generative processes - New England Cottontails grow from birth to adulthood. New England Cottontails can begin reproducing within their first year of life and females have 2 - 3 liters per year. A usual litter consists of 3 - 8 newborn rabbits, with 5 being the average (Fuller & Tur, 2012).
Control processes - New England Cottontails are mammals. They maintain a consistent internal body temperature along with other regulatory processes to maintain homeostasis.
New England Cottontails are living organisms comprised of cells. The cells of the New England Cottontail are eukaryotic, meaning they have a nucleus. The cells are differentiated into a variety of tissues, organs, and organ systems.
The New England Cottontail is a brown, medium-sized rabbit. Their fur has black tips, which gives the rabbit a more patchy appearance. The New England Cottontail's fur does not change to white during the winter. Cottontails have large, heavily furred ears. New England Cottontails have a black spot between their ears. They range in size from 15 - 17 inches long and 2.2 - 3.0 pounds (Arbuthnot, 2008).
Specialized Structures
NEC would benefit from...
The New England Cottontail would benefit from specialized cells that would improve their ability to locate predators in their surroundings. The predators of the New England Cottontail include coyotes, red foxes, bobcats, fishers, house cats, and owls (www.edf.org). The Cottontail currently uses its hearing and eye sight to locate predators. If I could imagine a new type of cell to improve the rabbits' chance of survival, I would focus on improving the cottontails' ability to avoid its predators.
A New England Original in Danger of Disappearing
Have you ever had the experience of walking in the woods in Connecticut and seeing a small, brown rabbit cross your path? If you were taking this stroll before the 1960's, you would likely answer, "Yes!" However, in the 21st century, the number of New England Cottontails has fallen dramatically. These beautiful and important mammals need our help.
The New England Cottontail population was genetically analyzed by researchers in 2011. The results of this study determined that the current NEC populations have been genetically impacted by recent habitat loss and fragmentation. There is limited gene flow between populations due to the disconnect of their habitats. The New England Cottontail genetic structure has been impacted by genetic drift, a random change in alleles due to change events (Fuller & Tur, 2012).
Genetic Concerns
New England Cottontail x Eastern Cottontail?
During the early 1900's, hunting clubs and wildlife agencies brought thousands of eastern cottontails to the New England area to supplement hunting opportunities. Eastern cottontails have been here ever since. Can a New England Cottontail and an eastern cottontail mate? No, the two populations are not able to interbreed and remain two distinct species (Fergus, 2013).
NEC
EC
References

Arbuthnot, M. (2008). A landowner's guide to new england cottontail habitat
management. Environmental Defence Fund. Retrieved from http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/8828_New-England-Cottontail-Guide_0.pdf

Fergus, C. (2013).
Saving a new england native
. Northern Woodlands, p. 20 - 26.

Fuller, S. & Tur, A. (2012). Conservation strategy for the new england cottontail.
Retrieved from http://newenglandcottontail.org/sites/default/files/research_documents/conservation_strategy_final_12-3-12.pdf

Tillery, B., Enger, E., & Ross, F. (2008). Integrated science (4th ed.). New York, NY:
McGraw-Hill.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (August 2006). New england cottontail. Retrieved from
http://www.fws.gov/northeast/pdf/necotton.fs.pdf



New England Cottontails require dense cover for protection from predators. This cover is found in early succesional habitats that have shrub thickets and very young trees. These areas meet all of the rabbits' needs for food and protection (Arbuthnot, 2008).
Environmental Concerns
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with other organizations to return key areas back to the kinds of habitat the New England Cottontail needs to thrive once again.
Rabbits are an important part of the food chain in their environment. They are herbivores that take nutrients directly from plant material and pass them onto the predators that feed on them. Rabbits are food for larger mammals and birds of prey such as the red fox, coyote, barred owl, and red-tailed hawk (Arbuthnot, 2008).
Cottontails' Niche
The problem is...
the area of New England that was once covered with early succesional forest is now covered with old growth forest. The trees have grown tall enough to provide a canopy that blocks sunlight from reaching the forest floor. The thick shrubs and brush that New England Cottontails need are no longer able to flourish.
Watch this video to see how habitat restoration is done.
A rare glimpse of a New England Cottontail
Full transcript