The state-endangered New England cottontail’s numbers, now estimated at a mere 300 individuals, have dropped dramatically over the past 50 years, mainly because of habitat loss and fragmentation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo

In celebration of National Public Lands Day, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells plans to host a volunteer workday on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the organization’s Spurwink Divison in Scarborough. Specific details will be provided during the registration process.

The day is meant to help restore native shrubland habitat, home to many species including Maine’s only native rabbit, the state-endangered New England cottontail.

After canceling the annual event last year, the refuge will join the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands once again. The event is to meant celebrate the opportunity Americans have to give back to the public lands they explore and rejuvenate.

For more details, directions and to sign up, email [email protected]. Registration is required to ensure the event adheres to COVID safety guidelines. COVID precautions will be followed, including appropriate mask-wearing.

The state-endangered New England cottontail’s numbers, now estimated at a mere 300 individuals, have dropped dramatically over the past 50 years, mainly because of habitat loss and fragmentation. This rabbit depends on dense thicket habitat to be able to hide from predators and forage for food.

“If you can walk through it, it isn’t good New England Cottontail habitat,” said Kate O’Brien, the wildlife biologist at refuge, according to a news release from the refuge.

Healthy thicket habitat is steadily disappearing and being degraded in Maine for reasons like development, fragmentation, forest maturation, and the spread of invasive plants. As shrublands disappear, so do the animal species that depend on them.

The New England cottontail is not the only animal in danger of disappearing. Those also relying on shrubland habitat include the eastern towhee, American woodcock, prairie warbler, willow flycatcher, and the elusive black racer snake — all of which have dwindling populations.

Volunteers are needed for two time slots: 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. to assist with planting of native shrubs propagated at the refuge’s own greenhouse at a special habitat management area on the refuge in Scarborough. The day will include celebrating the national effort of “finding more ways to connect to nature,” by digging, planting, learning and brief trail walking, as well as donuts and coffee.

To learn more about what the refuge does, visit fws.gov/refuge/rachel_carson. To learn more about the New England cottontail and the efforts being taken across Maine and New England to save the species, visit newenglandcottontail.org.