Thursday

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit


Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits are the world’s smallest rabbits, and also the rarest. As adults they usually weigh less than a pound. The rabbits live in sagebrush communities. In the wild they eat almost nothing but sagebrush in the winter, in the summer they eat a more varied diet. Their litters contain 2 to 6 kits that are born in spring or summer; in these breeding seasons they can have 2 to 4 litters of kits.

Columbia Basin Pygmy rabbits are extinct in the wild. Their decline is attributed to predation and habitat loss due to agriculture and wildfires. The last 14 were taken in the 1990’s from their home of the Columbia Basin in Washington State to a captive breeding program. In the captive breeding program they were not breeding well, partially due to inbreeding. Since then they have been bred to the Idaho Pygmy Rabbit in an effort to increase the numbers, which has proved successful. The Oregon Zoo has a strong captive breeding program. They had a total of 73 bunnies (kits) in one year. They tag the ears of the kits with colored dye to tell them apart.

1 comment:

  1. I met a mother pygmy rabbit and her babies in Alberta (Dinosaur Provincial Park). She hussled her babies underground and blocked up the entrance with dirt from below (about a foot below the surface). The adults are cute enough but the gerbil-sized babies with loads of fluff and almost round ears are cute overload! They are not sure if the Alberta ones are Idaho Pygmy Rabbits or a unique species/subspecies (they are unconnected to the USA populations via hundreds of miles) It seems snakes are the main predators (too dry for raptors to find much prey) so the instinct to block their holes (and actually dig holes) makes sense.

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