New York Natural Heritage Program
New England Cottontail
Sylvilagus transitionalis (Bangs, 1895)

Habitat [-]
The New England cottontail is an early-successional species, preferring open woods, disturbed areas, shrubby areas, thickets, and marshes (Hamilton and Whitaker 1979). Specimens collected in Rensselaer County in the 1960s were from second-growth hardwoods with hemlocks at elevations greater than 1000 feet, and scattered swampy areas with stands of spruce and conifer plantations (Benton and Atkinson 1964). Current populations in southeastern New York can be found in isolated habitat patches that have undergone some form of disturbance such as agricultural fields and edges, and occasionally, brushy edges of transportation corridors (Tash and Litvaitis 2007).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Beech-maple mesic forest
    A hardwood forest with sugar maple and American beech codominant. This is a broadly defined community type with several variants. These forests occur on moist, well-drained, usually acid soils. Common associates are yellow birch, white ash, hop hornbeam, and red maple.
  • Hemlock-northern hardwood forest
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on middle to lower slopes of ravines, on cool, mid-elevation slopes, and on moist, well-drained sites at the margins of swamps. Eastern hemlock is present and is often the most abundant tree in the forest.
  • Red maple-hardwood swamp*
    A hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, usually on inorganic soils. Red maple is usually the most abundant canopy tree, but it can also be codominant with white, green, or black ash; white or slippery elm; yellow birch; and swamp white oak.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Sedge meadow
    A wet meadow community that has organic soils (muck or fibrous peat). Soils are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. The dominant herbs must be members of the sedge family, typically of the genus Carex.
  • Shallow emergent marsh*
    A marsh meadow community that occurs on soils that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded. This marsh is better drained than a deep emergent marsh; water depths may range from 6 in to 3.3 ft (15 cm to 1 m) during flood stages, but the water level usually drops by mid to late summer and the soil is exposed during an average year.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Shrub swamp*
    An inland wetland dominated by tall shrubs that occurs along the shore of a lake or river, in a wet depression or valley not associated with lakes, or as a transition zone between a marsh, fen, or bog and a swamp or upland community. Shrub swamps are very common and quite variable.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Spruce flats*
    A mixed forest that occurs on moist sites along the borders of swamps and in low flats along lakes and streams in the Adirondacks. Soils are strongly podzolized, loamy to sandy, and seasonally moist, but not saturated and not peaty. Typically, the dominant trees are red spruce and red maple.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Spruce-fir swamp*
    A conifer swamp that typically occurs in a drainage basin but also can occur at the edge of a lake or pond or along gentle slopes of islands. These swamps are usually dense, with a fairly closed canopy (80 to 90% cover). The dominant tree is usually red spruce. Codominant trees include balsam fir and red maple. In the Catskills, balsam fir may be absent, and in the Adirondacks, black spruce or white spruce may replace red spruce as a dominant tree.

    * probable association but not confirmed
  • Successional old field
    A meadow dominated by forbs and grasses that occurs on sites that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned or only occasionally mowed.
  • Successional shrubland
    A shrubland that occurs on sites that have been cleared (for farming, logging, development, etc.) or otherwise disturbed. This community has at least 50% cover of shrubs.

Associated Species [-]
  • Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)