Habitat in Idaho for relocating pygmy rabbits will be scanned by unmanned drone aircraft. One of the smallest mammals in the west, the pygmy rabbit is endangered, and are being bred in captivity. Now, scientists in Idaho plan to use drones to scan the sagebrush for the best areas to re-home the tiny wild bunnies. Here are highlights of an article by John Miller published yesterday in the Seattle Times.
The flights, overseen by University of Idaho, Boise State University and University of Florida scientists, are meant to help determine whether aerial shots from small, unmanned planes can effectively locate the best areas to reintroduce captive-bred pygmy rabbits into the wild.
With the flights, scientists from the universities will be taking high-resolution digital shots, in color and infrared, over Bureau of Land Management property in Idaho’s Lemhi County from June 27-29.
“As part of the effort to save the rabbits from extinction, the test aims to identify the best areas in which to reintroduce captive-bred pygmy rabbits,” according to members of the team including Jennifer S. Forbey, a Boise State University professor who will help in maneuvering the drones from a base in the Idaho mountains.
This isn’t the first time Forbey and other scientists have taken to the West’s skies with drones in their pursuit of helping the rabbits, which are small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand and have some peculiar habits that have hindered their survival, including the tendency for females to fight off potential male partners.
Starting in 2011, she joined U.S. Geological Survey scientists flying drones over the Idaho desert near Shoshone, to the southwest of this year’s target, in pursuit of more information about where these rabbits live. The rabbits’ range, which historically covered portions of California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Washington, has been fragmented through development, agriculture and grazing.
The entire report is available online at http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/202119616
We hope that the use of drone aircraft to survey wildlife habitat is successful and is not hampered by those concerned that their security may be threatened. Hoppington Post would like to see the wild pygmy rabbit population restored in Idaho and other western states. Preventing further destruction of their habitat will be essential to ensuring the program is ultimately successful.