Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.”The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.”Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. …

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Online predators not distinctively dangerous sex offenders

Aug. 6, 2013 — A new University of New Hampshire study challenges the view that online predators are a distinctly dangerous variety of sex offender, requiring special programs to protect youth.The study from the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center finds that sex offenders who target teens increasingly use Internet and cell phone communications to lure teens into sexual relationships. In crimes that involve such communications, offenders who meet and recruit youth online operate in much the same way as offenders who meet and know youth in ordinary offline environments.”These are all serious crimes,” said lead author Janis Wolak, a senior researcher at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center. “But the so-called ‘online predators’ are not more insidious.”The research results are presented in the Journal of Adolescent Health in the article “Are Crimes by Online Predators Different From Crimes by Sex Offenders Who Know Youth In-Person?” authored by Wolak and David Finkelhor, professor and director of the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.The study compared 143 cases where sex offenders met underage victims online with 139 cases where offenders knew victims in offline capacities, such as through their schools, families, churches or neighborhoods. All of the offenders used the Internet or cell phones to communicate with victims. The incidents came from a national sample of law enforcement cases in which offenders were arrested for Internet-related sex crimes. Details about the cases were provided by police investigators.The majority of cases in both groups involved illegal sexual activity with underage youth, or statutory rape. Both groups involved a common dynamic: adult men who used online communications to seduce and manipulate teens, mostly girls, into sexual relationships. Many offenders also solicited sexual images from victims. However, force, abduction and even identity deception were rare.”We should stop emphasizing the dangers of online strangers. …

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