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Changing landscapes in the Northeastern United States over the past century have had a profound effect on the abundance and distribution of native wildlife species that prefer early successional habitat, including New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis). Populations of New England cottontail have been in decline for several decades, whereas during this same time period the nonnative eastern cottontail (S. floridanus) range has expanded. We conducted intensive vegetation analyses at 17 known locations of New England cottontail and 19 known locations of eastern cottontail in Connecticut to better describe their chosen habitat and identify any difference in habitat used by the two species. Sites that were occupied by New England cot- tontail had greater canopy closure (73.7%) and basal area (12.3 m2/ha) than sites occupied by eastern cottontail (45.3% and 6.8 m2/ha). Our findings suggest management plans to create habitat for New England cottontails should include retaining more basal area and canopy closure than what is currently prescribed in southern New England; however, further fine-scale research is required to determine if this recommendation applies throughout the range of New England cottontail.

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