ix rabbits that were bred in captivity at Roger Williams Park Zoo and Queens Zoo in New York were released on the island this past Friday.
Biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say uninhabited Patience Island has proven a successful spot for cottontails, partially due to a smaller predator population compared to the mainland.
They’ve been releasing these native rabbits there since 2012 and estimate that the population has now grown to about 100.
Biologist Cindy Corsair said it’s important for their numbers to be restored.
“We always want to conserve a species for its intrinsic value and then also every species serves and integral role in the ecosystem and has some function there," Corsair said.
Corsair said the rabbit's population has been declining for about 50 years since more than 80 percent of its habitat of dense shrubs in forests has been lost to the development of homes and businesses.
Corsair said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has previously released New England cottontails at sites in New Hampshire and Maine.
They’re planning to release more rabbits on uninhabited Nomans Land Island in Massachusetts.