WILDLIFE

Pygmy rabbit faces endangerment as Sagebrush Sea dwindles

Jan 26, 2024, 7:09 AM

Pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). Photo credit: Miranda Crowell....

Pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). Photo credit: Miranda Crowell.

(Brachylagus idahoensis)

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that the pygmy rabbit, the world’s smallest rabbit, needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.

This little bunny, native to parts of Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, California, and Oregon, is currently under threat due to climate change, sickness, and habitat destruction.

The once-common pygmy rabbit has seen a progressive decline over the past 50 years. In Wyoming, the population has plummeted to a mere 15% occupancy, while in Utah the percentages are as low as 7% to 13%. With habitat loss and plummeting population, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that urgent action is required to preserve their habitats.

This specific habitat, known as the Sagebrush Sea, is an arid ecosystem with various species of sagebrush. The Sagebrush Sea has been shrinking quickly, losing approximately 1.3 million acres every year.

“Species like the pygmy rabbit are sagebrush obligates. Meaning that that’s the habitat that they depend on for their survival,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project.

“The alarming declines in multiple species that depend on healthy sagebrush habitats signal the need for immediate action to better protect our Sagebrush Sea habitats across the west,” said Vera Smith, senior federal lands policy analyst at Defenders of Wildlife.

Anderson also said that including the pygmy rabbit in the Endangered Species List would tell the government to look into the impact this habitat loss has on the species.

“This is a great first step toward protecting the tiny but mighty pygmy rabbit and the habitat it needs to survive,” said Randi Spivak, public land policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Pygmy rabbit faces endangerment as Sagebrush Sea dwindles