DNA analysis of the endangered New England cottontail shows that power line rights of way, railroad edges and roadsides may help support their diminishing habitat.
The small, brown rabbit has been declining in the region for decades. Development and natural forest growth have cut into the dense patches of shrubs and brush that it prefers.
University of New Hampshire researchers say the New England cottontail population has shrunken by at least half in New Hampshire and Maine in the last decade. The rabbit is listed as endangered in those two states; it's extinct in Vermont. There are small populations throughout the rest of New England and in New York.
The UNH research shoes landscape features such as power lines and rail edges with nearby scrub habitat may help the rabbits.