Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources: Wildlife

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

John A Litvaitis


The New England cottontail is currently endangered throughout much of its range. The cause of this decline has been habitat loss that has facilitated intense predation. Cottontails living on small patches have high mortality rates due to lack of quality cover and browse and high predation pressure. The goal of this study was to determine if provisioning supplemental food during the winter could increase cottontail survival rates by reducing risky foraging behavior in poor habitat that exposes the rabbits to predators. Among fed rabbits the survival rate (70%) was substantially greater than the survival rate for unfed rabbits (32%). A population model was created in RAMAS Metapop using these survival figures to determine an optimum feeding regime. When a small number of patches were fed, a cluster approach worked best. When many patches were fed the there was little difference among the three approaches.