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Swamp Rabbit Decline Is Slowing

October 27, 2010

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Chances are that many of us have never seen a swamp rabbit.  The swamp rabbit is a larger, darker-colored cousin to the cottontail rabbit.  They like to hang out near wetlands with scenery that includes an abundance of irregular patches of shrubbery with brushy edges and stumps.  After becoming concerned over the shrinking numbers of swamp rabbits and Eastern Cottontails, Dr. Clayton Nielson, an Associate Professor in the Department of Forestry, started working on a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to examine how well programs aimed at reclaiming swamp rabbit habitat are working to help restore the population.  Nielson is working with Dr. Eric Schauber (Associate Professor of Zoology), and a team of researchers and graduate assistants on the study.  The team is finding that the decline is slowing, but is directly dependent the existence of rabbit habitats on both public and private land.   Joanne Crawford, a graduate student in Forestry who has worked on the project for over a year, believes the best way to conserve the animals is to work with private landowners, and providing them with information about the federal programs that help fund the creation of wildlife habitat.   Crawford is taking the research to the next level by attaching radio collars to individual  rabbits and then tracking their movements.  Crawford states, “I want to know where they live, how long they survive and what kills them.”  The study will likely continue for another 4-5 years.  To learn more about this interesting study, follow the links below.