New Citizen Science Project Asks the Public to Submit Information and Photographs
If you see a rabbit, report it! NH Rabbit Reports , a new citizen science project sponsored by UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, with support from the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire, is seeking participants to collect data, take photos and report sightings of rabbits throughout New Hampshire.
Anyone can participate, and rabbit sightings will help the NH Rabbit Reports team learn more about where rabbit species are located in the state. Do you have a rabbit that frequently visits your yard? Did you spot one on a recent outdoor adventure? You can use your smartphone or computer to submit your sighting to NH Rabbit Reports – no species identification skills required.
“Many potentially useful observations of wildlife are made by homeowners, birders, hunters, natural resource professionals and general nature lovers,” says Haley Andreozzi, wildlife outreach coordinator for UNH Cooperative Extension and a NH Rabbit Reports team member. “Through NH Rabbit Reports, citizen scientists can report their rabbit sightings to help biologists assess the distribution and status of New Hampshire’s rabbit species and evaluate appropriate conservation strategies.”
New Hampshire is home to two species of rabbits, the eastern cottontail and the New England cottontail, as well as one species of hare, the snowshoe hare. NH Rabbit Reports sighting information will help researchers understand the distribution and potential abundance of these species in the Granite State. By understanding the relationship between the distributions of the two rabbit species, organizations and state agencies can make informed decisions about habitat management. This is vital for rabbit species, particularly for the New England cottontail, which is classified as a state-endangered species in New Hampshire.
The New England cottontail is native to New England, but has seen dwindling population numbers over the past several decades throughout its range, mostly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The species requires large areas of early-successional habitat to avoid predators and survive. They typically don’t venture far from those areas of thick shrubs and young trees. Meanwhile, Eastern cottontails are able to venture farther from protective cover and are better able to survive in the human-dominated, fragmented habitats of New England. In many small habitat patches, eastern cottontails have replaced native New England cottontails.
“It is difficult for us to find the time and resources needed to collect distribution information about eastern cottontail rabbits in New Hampshire,” said Heidi Holman, a wildlife biologist who coordinates N.H. Fish and Game’s New England cottontail restoration efforts. “We have received assistance from trained volunteers and dozens of phone calls every year from the people of New Hampshire reporting the rabbits they see. The Rabbit Reports website will give us the opportunity to build a map and database of all this information to communicate the results of this work.”
N.H. Fish and Game coordinates a comprehensive effort to survey for the presence of New England cottontail rabbits in and around the areas where they are known to be present. (Learn more about this initiative at http://www.wildnh.com/nongame/project-ne-cottontail.html.) However, less is known about where and in what numbers eastern cottontails are found in the state. Data collected through NH Rabbit Reports will give researchers a more complete picture of the state’s rabbit populations. For more information, visit the project website at nhrabbitreports.org or contact Haley Andreozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 862-5327.