LONDONDERRY — Participants in Stonyfield Farm’s 5K walk/run and free Earth Day Fair on Saturday, April 20, will be helping bring a native rabbit back to New Hampshire’s landscape.
Each year, Stonyfield donates a portion of the proceeds from the event to an organization – this year, donations will go to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program for work restoring the New England cottontail. For more information on the race and Earth Day fair, visit stonyfield5k.com.
Stonyfield Farm provides habitat for one of the last remaining populations of New England cottontail in New Hampshire.
“The population of New England cottontails occupying the landscape around the Stonyfield site is possibly the largest in the state,” said Heidi Holman, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game’s Nongame Program and the leader of the cottontail restoration project. “Their collaboration in creating habitat has boosted the population of this endangered rabbit in the area.”
Initially, just 2 of the 11 acres at the Stonyfield site were suitable for the rabbits, which need thick shrubby growth for food and protection from predators. Only one or two native rabbits were documented in the area before work began to make space for young forest to grow.
Four years later, suitable habitat conditions have developed. Today, some five to 10 New England cottontails can be found throughout the entire 11 acres of habitat.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is excited to participate in the 5K and fair, and encourages people to learn about the New England cottontail and the race to save the region’s only native rabbit,” said Anthony Tur, New England cottontail coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We also commend Stonyfield for their efforts in New England cottontail conservation. The restoration project at Stonyfield Yogurt Works has been the most successful project so far, with positive results for habitat and the rabbit population.”