20 endangered rabbits released; 14 promptly eaten
A multi-million dollar project to return the near-extinct rabbit to its natural environment has resulted in 14 endangered rabbits to be killed by predators.
Most of a group of 20 endangered rabbits that were reintroduced to the wild with great fanfare last month have been killed by predators, state officials said.
Only four of the rabbits released on March 13 remained at the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area as of Tuesday, said David Hays, pygmy rabbit coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hays said two males were removed earlier this month and will be returned at the end of April. The other 14 rabbits are believed to have fallen victim to predators, mainly coyotes, but also hawks and owls, Hays said.
The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, eat sagebrush and are the only rabbits in the United States that dig their own burrows.
Hays said the rapid decline in population does not doom the multi-million dollar project to return the near-extinct rabbit to its natural environment. More rabbits will be released in the area, and experts are looking for ways to reduce predation.
"We're taking it week by week. This is valuable learning time," he said.
Tags: Endangered | Species | Rabbit