It has become increasingly hard to find riparian brush rabbits in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge in Vernalis, California. The species is on the endangered list, and a team from California State University’s Endangered Species Recovery Program at Stanislaus has been working to find out how many of the rabbits are left in the area. A report on the story by Jonathan Partridge was recently published by PattersonIrrigator.com. Here are some highlights:
“Even when they’re right in front of you, it’s hard to see them, because they’re right in the brush,” said Patrick Kelly, director of the program. “They’re secretive. As soon as they see you, they feel vulnerable.”
With the help of corncobs rolled in molasses and applesauce, biologists were able to lure and track 10 of the scarce rabbits during the past two weeks at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge about 20 miles north of Patterson.
The work, which started Oct. 29 and finished Nov. 8, was part of a twice-yearly census run by the ESRP to keep tabs on the general activity of the endangered species.
Kelly said the rabbit is important because it is an “umbrella species” — on that is equally or more sensitive to habitat changes than other species that live in the same area. Scientists have concluded that if riparian brush rabbit’s habitat needs are supplied, the needs of other species are being met, too.
“All of this should be viewed as an ecosystem restoration,” Kelly said. “It’s the restoration of a habitat type that has diminished drastically, really since the Gold Rush.”
Biologists found seven rabbits in the spring and nine rabbits during a fall 2011 survey, Edgarian said.
The rabbit population was nearly wiped out by flooding in 2006, shortly after the animals were reintroduced to the wildlife refuge, he said. However, they fared much better when flooding occurred in the refuge in 2011, in large part due to restoration of native plants and the addition of brush-covered mounds of soil that helps serve as a refuge, Edgarian said.
Compared with the larger desert cottontails that also occupy the refuge, brush rabbits are more hesitant to leave brush-covered areas for fear of predators. Edgarian added that they can be swept away by floodwaters or picked off by predators.
You can read the complete article at: Patterson Irrigator – Biologists take census of endangered rabbits
The main reason for the decline of the riparian brush rabbit in the region is due to habitat destruction, so Hoppington Post was pleased to see that habitat restoration has been going on, with funding being provided by federal, state and regional governmental departments.