Rabbits are Disappearing from New York City ParksPublished September 22, 2010
When I was a kid, every Sunday morning my dad would take me to Central Park armed with peanuts, carrots and raisins, to feed the pigeons and squirrels. I got a kick out of watching the many species of wildlife living there and marveled over how tame most seemed. Now, baffled wildlife officials are wondering where one of those species has gone - the bunnies. While Easter bunnies are frequently abandoned in Central Park once holiday festivities are over, Wild Cottontails have not been spotted hopping through the foliage for the past four years. Rabbits seek protection and food in wooded habitats. Since they have been living off the land since way before Central Park was established 161 years ago, some folks suspect there may be a few remaining, carefully hiding from the public in the park's thick brush. In an email commenting on the situation, sent to New York Outdoor News, Regina Alvarez, Director of Horticulture for the Central Park Conservancy, wrote, "I've been here for 17 years, and there were not many when I got here. But I would see them once in awhile." Director of Urban Park Rangers, Sarah Aucoin said, "Only time will tell if they are gone for good." Commenting further she added, "Because bunnies mate like rabbits, if there are still a few, we'll see an increase, definitely." Over the past few years rabbits have been disappearing from at least two other New York City parks, according to Jeffrey Croft of the NYC Park Advocates, a watchdog group. Randall's Island, located between the East and Harlem rivers, was once occupied by a thriving population of Eastern Cottontails, before the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the park. Since, the natural fields were replaced with artificial turf. Croft said that rabbits in Calvert Vaux Park, near Coney Island, Brooklyn, have also been disappearing. And while Alan Hicks, State Wildlife Biologist, said rabbits are vulnerable to hazards such as automobiles, natural predators and weather, Aucoin doesn't think that an increase in predators is the reason for their disappearance, since predators don't decimate their food source. She said, "That's not smart, evolutionarily speaking. That predator population would die off if they didn't have anything to eat." And while no one yet has the answer to this mystery, to encourage repopulation, officials are busy replacing invasive plants with those that are more attractive to our long-eared furry friends. What do you think is causing the disappearance of wild rabbits? Tell us in a comment.