You can chase rabbits in Massachusetts long into the winter–the season ends on February 28 this year. Even though cottontail populations have dropped over the years, largely due to the loss of appropriate agricultural habitat and the increase in coyote predation, some feel that rabbit levels have stabilized and may be increasing, especially in certain areas. Indeed, in the Connecticut Valley Wildlife District, cottontails (both the native New England species and the much more numerous Easterns) have ample habitat.
Look to second-growth forest, brushy power-line areas, swamp edges and woodland breaks for New England cottontails. The edges of pastures, crop fields and woodlands will hold the Eastern cottontails.
Where to Go: For New England cottontails, hit the Poland Brook Wildlife Management Area in Conway (618 acres), the Facing Rock WMA in Ludlow (1,147 acres) and the Montague WMA (1,425 acres). For Easterns, look to the Herm Covey WMA in Belchertown (1,474 acres) and ask permission to hunt from crop and dairy farmers up and down the Connecticut River Valley.
To help with a major study about New England cottontails in the Commonwealth, contact your local Wildlife Management District for a packet that contains an appropriate envelope for the collection of rabbit skulls and directions for specific necessary information. It’s free, and your help will be greatly appreciated.