Pygmy rabbit (Photo by Washington State University)
Both the pygmy rabbit and the New England cottontail have been in the news recently for diminishing populations in the wild.
Earlier this week, Western Watersheds Project of Hailey, Idaho filed a court challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s denial of endangered species protection to pygmy rabbits. Pygmy rabbits, which are tiny enough to fit into the palm of your hand, have experienced a decrease in population as a result of habitat fragmentation and loss, which was caused by livestock grazing.
A survey conducted by scientists at the University of Rhode Island and the state Department of Environmental Management revealed virtually no sign of the native New England cottontail rabbit in Rhode Island. Last winter, rabbit droppings were collected and DNA tested. The results showed that all the droppings belonged to non-native Eastern cottontails. Eastern cottontails were introduced to the area in the 1930s and have flourished while New England cottontail populations declined. Although attempts have been made to introduce new habitat (young forests, scrub brush), the New England cottontail is close to being placed on the Endangered Species List.
For more info, see:
Pygmy Rabbit: Western Watersheds Project Press Release
New England Cottontail: Providence Journal
Last year, I posted about the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to reintroduce the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit back into their native habitat in Washington.
The program to breed the rabbits will most likely come to an end this year as there are no Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits left in the wild, and the last purebred rabbit died in captivity. According to Chris Warren, who runs the program, genetically speaking, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits are now extinct.
In 2010, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will focus on introducing pygmy rabbits from Idaho into the area.
For more information: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/6420ap_wa_pygmy_rabbits.html
The Fish and Wildlife Service have announced that they will begin an investigation on the status of the Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) to determine if this species will be listed as threatened or endangered. Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits (who inhabit Washington) are already listed as endangered, and efforts to reintroduce captive-bred rabbits in the area have failed due to high predation. This new report could extend the endangered status listing to more states in the west including California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
For more information:
90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) as Threatened or Endangered
Feds to Mull Protection for Pygmy Rabbit