2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Pygmy Rabbit Brought Back From Near Extinction
Unfortunately, the rabbit is also known for something else thatís small - its population. Disease, wildfires, predation, and, most significantly, habitat loss have brought the species to the brink of extinction.
In 2002, just 16 pygmy rabbits remained in Washington state. The Oregon Zoo and its conservation partners worked to restore this tiny population through an intensive breeding program. This process involved cross-breeding the remaining rabbits with wild Idaho pygmy rabbits to strengthen their gene pool. By 2007, 20 captive-bred rabbits were released into central Washington. Unfortunately, none remained in the wild one year later due to predation.
The team tried again in 2011, releasing 50 rabbits outfitted with microchips or radio collars. They were placed in a wire mesh enclosure within a larger nature preserve. This resulted in a smoother adjustment period to the wild while encouraging breeding and protecting the rabbits from predators. The program was deemed successful when a Columbia Bason Pygmy managed to breed and give birth within its natural range.
As of 2021, these tiny rabbits have experienced a bit of a bounce back but are still found in only two small parts of the Columbia Basin, where they were reintroduced through conservation efforts. (A third population was lost in 2020 in the Pearl Hill wildfire). But as long as these populations exist, hope remains that this North American native will someday rebound and make its way off the near-extinction list for good.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (ph 360-902-2515; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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