Threatened Pygmy Rabbit Released in Wild
By Brian Ertz On March 14, 2007 · 3 Comments · In Wildlife Habitat
Here we have another species that ends up with the short end of the stick with regard to habitat conflicts on public lands.
Picture: Washington Department Fish & Game
“EPHRATA, Wash. – Wildlife officials Tuesday released 20 Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits that were raised in captivity to a sagebrush-covered area of central Washington state where their ancestors roamed before teetering on the edge of extinction.” Read More from the Register-Guard…
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This species is even more dependent on sagebrush, especially thick dense sagebrush (the kind the ranchers hate and love to get agencies to “thin” or “manipulate” as a “hazardous fuel” these days ), than sage grouse.
The Columbia Basin DPS of the pygmy rabbit is a tale of Fish and Wildlife Service failing to act on listing under the ESA until these rabbits were nearly gone in the wild. Their numbers were so reduced that the genetic problems that plague small populations were in play. We heard all those assurances of Ed Bangs at the afternoon session of the Wolf Hearing about how FWS would act ever-so-promptly to step in if problems arose under STATE management of de-listed wolves. Despite warnings from biologists for years, the STATE of Washington continued to let cattle graze and trample pygmy habitats up until the only population, at Sagebrush Flat, was almost gone. Only litigation forced FWS to list the Columbia Basin rabbits.
Here is a link to a petition for ESA listing of the pygmy rabbit in other western states. http://www.onda.org/protecting-wildlife-and-clean-water/imperiled-species/pygmy-rabbit/more-info-on-pygmy-rabbit/Pygmy%20Rabbit%20Petition%20List.pdf/view
Of course, Listing for this species in other areas is being fiercely resisted by Fish and Wildlife Service and the livestock industry. Livestock grazing is a major impact to pygmies – altering the composition of the sagebrush plant communities, breaking off sagebrush and “thinning” the cover these rabbits need to screen them from predators, and also trampling and collapsing their burrows. They get walloped at every level by cows.
kt hit the bullseye again. Little known terrestrial critters like the pygmy rabbit have taken the biggest hit of all from public land livestock grazing.
Here is a link to a Smithsonian site that roughly shows the range of the pygmy rabbit (maximum weight: around one pound). Except the range extends a bit more into both Montana and Wyoming (and into Oil and Gas and Energy destuction crosshairs in WY) than the map shows, and suitable habitats are noe highly fragmented.
And what in the world is the “Near” Threatened about?
Alan, I think I remember you said you were from, or your mother lives in, Idaho. This inconspicuous rabbit was “discovered” fairly late – first collected by C. H. Merriam in the Upper Pahsimeroi near Goldburg. That’s why the “idahoensis” in the scientific name. Merriam set out in 1890 from near Shoshone, rambled about Arco, Pahsimeroi, Wood River, cut south across the Snake, and the Jarbidge country, and ended up at the railhead in Wells, NV. He described the pygmy rabbit as a “characteristic” mammal of the sagebrush country. No longer …