Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Rabbits

Map: Cottontail Rabbit and Snowshoe Hare Habitat

Cottontail Rabbit and Snowshoe Hare Habitat

The New England cottontail rabbit was, in 2011, a candidate for federal listing as a threatened species. Less than 300 rabbits are believed to be in Maine, most in the south.  Threats include the loss of young forest and thickets due to the loss of agricultural land, pets such as cats, and invasive vegetation not suitable for the cottontail.  Now a state endangered species, Maine has discontinued hunting since 2004.

It is the only true rabbit in Maine, distinguished from the snowshoe hare by its smaller size, its brown color in winter, and a black spot between the ears.  The New England cottontail, once more broadly distributed, are now found only in the southern most counties of York and Cumberland.

Eastern cottontails, on the other hand, do not occur in Maine.

Size Habitat Food Litter Born Behavior
L=14-18″
T=1-3″
2-4 lbs
Brushy areas, young forest,
open woodlands,
swamps,
mountains
Summer: grasses,
herbs. Winter: seedlings,
bark, twigs, buds
2 or 3 litters
per yr;
3-8 young
in litter
March-
July
Secretive, rarely
ventures
from cover

NOTE: L=length, T=length of tail, Litter = typical number of young


Snowshoe Hare, Baxter State Park (2004)

Snowshoe Hare, Baxter State Park (2004)

The snowshoe hare inhabits the northern, most forested, portion of the state.  Far from being threatened, they may be hunted from October 1st through March 31st.

It is distinguished from the cottontail, in addition to its range, by being larger, large hind feet, longer ears and shorter tail.

During the summer its coat is a light brown and, of course,  its color is white during the winter.

 


Snowshoe hare at Kidney Pond Campground, Baxter State Park (2004)


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Additional resources

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Maine Field Office – Ecological services. “New England Cottontail Rabbit. (Sylvilagus transitionalis) – Candidate for federal listing.” http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/New_England_cottontail_rabbit.html (accessed January 16, 2012)

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “New England Cottontail Conservation.” https://www.fws.gov/northeast/newenglandcottontail/ (accessed October 31, 2016)

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