Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pygmy Rabbit Relocation Wrap-up

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Eastern Washington Field Office, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and numerous other cooperating agencies, recently captured 32 pygmy rabbits from populations in Oregon and Wyoming to support ongoing reintroduction efforts in the Columbia Basin of central Washington. 

WDFW Biologist Penny Becker with rabbit traps in sagebrush country, Oregon

After undergoing veterinary examinations and being transported from their home states, the new animals were placed in large (5 to 11 acre) enclosures at the state-managed Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area and will be allowed to breed with resident, inter-crossed Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits.

View of Wyoming vet clinic
The newly added animals and most of the kits born throughout the 2013 breeding season will then be released to the wild over this coming spring and summer to bolster a number of surviving wild animals that have been released at the site since mid-2011. There are encouraging signs that a new, albeit small, population is becoming established in central Washington, including signs of reproduction in the wild that was documented during surveys this past winter.

Pygmy rabbit Stunnel poses for the camera during his journey to central Washington.

In a moment of inspiration during the recent capture effort, Chris Warren, USFWS Wildlife Biologist in our Eastern Washington Field Office, wrote this fitting rhyme:

Pygmy Rabbit is a clever chap,
who burrows out a home,
dives down the front then zips out the back,
before Coyote knows he's gone! 
She buries her kits in a secret place,
only one that she will know.
Beneath the Earth she'll keep them safe,
until their time to go. 
Hawk and Weasel, and many others yet,
will all attempt to dine,
on this little rabbit of the Sagebrush Steppe,
who's so difficult to find!

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