SciSun: But how does he carry all those Eggs?   Leave a comment

The Columbian Basin Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) is the world’s smallest of all types of rabbits, and lives in the most restricted – and harsh – environments of any rabbit species. Found only in an area named the Columbian Basin – much of the state of Idaho; the western part of Washington; and smaller areas of Oregon, Montana, Utah, Nevada and two Canadian Provinces – the Basin is home to the Columbia River, portions of four mountain ranges, and environments ranging from high-mountain Alpine to a unique black -sand desert.

In 2002 everyone thought the little rabbit was extinct in much of it’s natural home. But scientists and friends-of-the-rabbit continued to hope and search for any small populations that could be found, and after hundreds of hot hours searching in the desert, only 40 rabbits were located and taken to protected study areas at zoos and parks so they could be safe and live happy rabbit lives (and hopefully make many, many baby rabbits!). But, the rabbits apparently didn’t like their new homes because very few babies were born, and scientists started thinking it was too late to save this Endangered Species, the only native rabbit in North America that digs it’s own burrows. (The cottontail rabbit you might see in your yard or at the park could live in a burrow abandoned by another animal, or might dig to make this burrow a home of her own, but she won’t dig deep or extensive holes like the Columbian Pygmy, or a European rabbit.)

In desperation, scientists thought the rabbits might have better lives back in their desert homes, so the researchers built special predator-safe rabbit pens that would allow the rabbits to live somewhat natural, although protected, lives. Pygmy Rabbits usually don’t go further than about 100 feet from their burrows, so making safe areas for them didn’t require a lot of land. (We like to think the rabbits taken to the zoos were homesick because they were more than 100 feet away from their burrows. Even though at the zoo they did get to see elephants and sea lions, which they hadn’t seen before).

Even with the protected environments, scientists feared the little rabbit couldn’t make it. Then, just last Spring, everyone was amazed and overjoyed to find almost 100 baby rabbits living happy and healthy in their secure homes. And, there were signs some of the rabbits had escaped, so more burrows and babies were probably hidden nearby in the desert. Some of the babies found were smaller than a ping-pong ball, but still healthy and curious enough to hop right into the researchers hand. Even an adult Pygmy only weighs about a pound and is about ten inches long – that’s the size of a rolled-up T-shirt.

Columbia pygmy, pair

“OK, the humans can’t tell us apart so as far as I’m concerned, NEITHER of us took those treats.”

So when it’s Easter time, that makes these little bunnies just the right size to find the best hiding places for all those Eggs and other treats. We’ve always wondered how some Easter Eggs and candy you know you had, somehow disappear never to be seen again.

Be Hoppy. Read more about the Columbian Basin Pygmy Rabbit:

http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/wildlife/sensitive_species/pygmy_rabbit.html

http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/pygmy_rabbit/

http://www.oregonzoo.org/conserve/species-recovery-and-conservation/columbia-basin-pygmy-rabbits

Posted August 26, 2012 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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