Fish and Game, Conservation Work on Habitat Management for Rare Species

New Hampshire Fish and Game representatives presented further details about a project to complete habitat management in Londonderry for the enhancement of rare or endangered species

Londonderry will receive $30,000 in funding for the projects from Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and Northern Pass’ parent company, Eversource, the energy company announced at Town Hall on March 26.

Projects are being selected based on their ability to achieve long-term, measurable outcomes that meet the program’s goals, which include strengthening the health of the forest system; sustaining working forests; improving the quality of streams; and enhancing the biodiversity of New Hampshire’s fish and wildlife population.

Most of the grant will be used for machinery to clear vegetation under the power lines to stimulate young tree growth and shrubs for New England Cottontail, according to John Kanter,  nongame and endangered wildlife program coordinator for Fish and Game.

Town Manager Kevin Smith said the timing of the project couldn’t be better, as cottontail rabbits have been located in areas where Pettengill Road development is ongoing.

“It shows the federal government we’re being proactive in our approach to preserve habitat while development is going on.” he said.

Animals to be monitored in Londonderry include cottontail rabbits, the Eastern hognose snake, and Blanding’s turtle, among others, the representatives told the Conservation Commission at their March 24 meeting.

Fish and Game wildlife biologist Michael Marchand is also asking for the public’s help in identifying rare and endangered animals, particularly the Eastern hognose snake.

Unfortunately, when people do come in contact with the rare, harmless snakes, they are often frightened and don’t take appropriate steps to allow conservation officers to locate the endangered reptiles.

Key features of an Eastern hognose snake include its upturned nose and reaction to a frightening encounter: hognose snakes may hiss and spread their necks, which causes them to be mistaken for cobras.

Marchand said the Eastern hognose, whose coloration can vary widely, rarely bite; but, if frightened, the snake may strike its head toward the ground.

Eastern hognose will also roll over and play dead.

“They’re the kittens of the snake world,” said  Kanter.

Anyone who observes a hognose snake or any other rare or endangered animal is asked to contact Fish and Game by calling 271-2461 or by email at Residents are also encouraged to take photos of rare and endangered animals they encounter.

In addition to monitoring the rare and endangered species in Londonderry, funding will be used to create replacement habitats for cottontails.

At the Commission’s Feb. 25 meeting, Fish and Game wildlife biologist Heidi Holman described projects that could be completed in various conservation areas of town, and the Commission asked Holman to bring back a cost analysis for each of the projects proposed, which she reported last week is still in the process of being completed.

Holman said ideally, they would like to see the project in Londonderry on-the-ground in the next year, with funding anticipated annually in the next few years.

The Commission considered a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fish and Game Department and the Town “concerning habitat management of town-owned parcels for enhancement of rare and endangered species including, but not limited to New England cottontail, Northern black racer, Eastern hognose snake, Blanding’s turtle and spotted turtle.

Based on the agreement, the Town would allow Fish and Game unrestricted access to town-owned parcels to monitor endangered wildlife and provide support for the project.

Commissioner Mike Speltz asked that language be added to the memorandum stating the Commission will work with Fish and Game to secure funding for the projects and implement a plan, but the Town will not be responsible for funding any projects with town resources.

Once the Commission and Fish and Game work out the memorandum, they will schedule a meeting with the Town Council.

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