You are not very likely to see a pygmy rabbit, even if you live in Oregon’s Columbia River basin, as they are listed as an endangered species. One of the few species of rabbits in North America that dig its own burrow, these little bunnies are quite different from the other wild rabbits in America, the cottontails and hares.
If you would like to see some pygmy rabbits, you may want to hurry to the Oregon Zoo, where they are getting ready to release 14 of them back into the wild in eastern Washington in the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area. We learned about the program online at Oregon Metro News and thought you would like to know about it. Here are some highlights:
“We’ve helped give these rabbits a chance for survival, and now it’s time to send them off into the world,” said Michael Illig, Oregon Zoo animal curator. “Our hope is that they’ll continue to breed and establish a stable population at Sagebrush Flat. A strong pygmy rabbit population there will keep the local community involved and help preserve the habitat.”
The recovery program ends on a high note for these federally endangered bunnies. Nearly 30 kits were born under the Oregon Zoo’s watch this year. The rabbits, currently housed at the zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation in rural Clackamas County, are headed for a six-acre transitional enclosure at Sagebrush Flat that will acclimate the animals to their surroundings, encourage breeding and protect them from predators. Rabbits recently released from the enclosure have been tracked and are successfully living in the area − a good indication for future population growth, according to Illig.
The pygmy rabbit is America’s smallest native rabbit, weighing less than one pound when fully grown, and is the country’s only burrow-digging and sagebrush-climbing rabbit. The shy species is dependent on sagebrush, which makes up the majority of its diet and grows in deep, loose soil, where the rabbits dig burrows.
You can read the complete article online at this link.
The Hoppington Post would like to send out some big binkies to the Oregon Zoo and its foundation, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, Washington State University and Northwest Trek for their efforts to preserve pygmy rabbits in the Pacific Northwest.
Our photo of a pygmy rabbit is courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and is in the public domain.