Pygmy rabbits try to hold on

You can imagine how the livestock industry feels about protecting pygmy rabbits . . . they aren’t game, you can’t raise them in pens and sell them. What good are they?

Pygmy rabbits try to hold on. Diminutive rodent species considered for federal ESA listing. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer




  1. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    Do sage grouse and pygmy rabbits share the same areas?
    I am guessing they do, but if not, there are still plenty of reasons to end grazing those areas and start restoring with native grasses. The benefits of restoration are a benefit to all, even more so with climate change. It will take a lot of money to do it, but in the long run will probably cost less, ie., firefighting, property damage, less suceptable to wildfire, more habitat for wildlife. I would volunteer to plant. {after investing in very tall, bite proof boots!!}

    Rabbits are lagomorphs- have two pairs of incisors, and include pikas, and hares.
    Rodentia, rodents, rats- have one set of incisors and include squirrels, beavers, and/or a contemptable person/persons.

  2. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    DBH, good call on the rodent label.

    “Do sage grouse and pygmy rabbits share the same areas?”

    I believe you and I had a similar conversation about this in one of Ralph’s previous posts. Unfortunately, the anser to the question is “Yes and No.”

    Because the home range of the pygmy rabbit is so small, and the sage grouse’s is relatively a lot larger, it would be expected that they would use the same areas in passing. However, sage grouse requre hiding cover that sometimes is not available in the often sandy, bare ground dominated areas where I have often seen pygmy rabbits. They do, after all “manufacture” their own hiding places. Listing one would benefit the other, no doubt, but neither could be expected to serve as a proxy to the recovery of the other species.

    You’ll need those boots to avoid sage-scratch more than rattle snakes! At least in the areas I worked. 😉

  3. kt Avatar

    Sage grouse right now – in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nevada – are being used as an excuse to tear apart the patches of dense sagebrush that are absolutely essential to pygmy rabbits. This is the kind of sagebrush ranchers have always hated, and sought to destroy to grow more cow grass.

    Killing sagebrush in the name (false) of saving sage grouse is responding to habitat fragmentation problems by imposing more fragmentatiton. Great use for agency those Bush “Healthy Forests” funds as it gives ranchers what they want. It is also a very easy and senseless supposed “mitigation” diversion of oil and gas developers. Anadarko curries favor with ranchers by buying some expensive sagebrush killing machines as “mitigation” for oil and gas to “restore” the range … in the name of sage grouse, and the Boys at the Wyoming Game Dept let them get away with it. WHY might there be no forbs to begin with???? Cows, cows, sheeeep, sheeep. But that is just too prickly an issue for them to tackle.

    Pygmy rabbits have even more exacting habitat requirements than sage grouse – they must have mature and old growth dense sagebrush.

    There are tens of millions of acres of sagebrush across the West that has been so altered and simplified infrastructure by livestock breakage and battering and all of these same old veg. treatments ” over the years that pygmy rabbits have been extirpated. So now pygmies exist in isolated populations, highly sensitive to extinction with further habitat loss or fragmentation. They are much more likely to go extinct sooner than sage grouse.

    And right now, Game Depts under the Bootheels of cowboy-enabling Governors like Butch Otter in Idaho, the fellow in NV – Gibbons, Huntsman in Utah, Freudenthal in Wyoming – make sure that ranchers get to dictate Game Dept policies.

  4. kt Avatar

    In the Comment above, I meant “simplified in structure” – i. e see-through sagebrush that does not hide a one pound rabbit.

    And BOTH species – sage grouse and pygmies are threatened by expansion of livestock facilities, plus the horrible Footprint of existing projects. Right now, up in the Lemhi Valley where the most studied and largest population of pygmy rabbits lives (and discussed in this article), Salmon BLM Manager Steve Hartmann is proposing new livestock pipelines to further fragment and destroy pygmy rabbit habitats – just last week they issued a Proposed Decision for the “Nez Perce pipeline”. More cow troughs punched into habitat already significantly fragmented by facilities. Death by a thousand cuts. Just one more this month, one more next month …

  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Pygmy rabbits may be affected by trampling as much as anything else. The ones I have observed over many years seem to need sagebrush large enough to deter cattle from entering. They also seem to need soil that is loose enough to dig burrows easily.
    After the 1983 Mount Borah Quake, I used to see pygmy rabbits and burrows along the fault line break. The loose soil and easy digging right at the fault line seemed to be attractive to them.
    I think conservation groups should concentrate on buying out grazing permits. There is so much money wasted on endless studies of wildlife that are meaningless unless live stock use ends or is greatly reduced.

  6. kt Avatar

    Larry – I agree that trampling is a huge problem for pygmy rabbits! And just about every small animal and even many insects that face half ton bovines.

    3 or 4 years I hiked around just south of the Earthquake Fault … with a few inches of stable snow. Pygmies were on mounds where the sagebrush was less battered and broken by cattle – so it provided more cover. The tallest sagebrush on mima mounds was just not being used – it was so battered and spindly — “see-through” sagebrush because the cattle rubbed against it. Rabbits were in the densest most structurally complex intermediate height sagebrush that was just a little too low for cows to relish rubbing. Nearly all the taller big sagebrush in non-mound deeper soil sites was completely see-through and not being used.

    Regarding trampling though: Since pygmies have young in shallow natal burrows closer to the surface than their regular burrows – these are certainly quite susceptible to trampling disturbance.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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