15 10 2008

Len Zeoli

Washington State University researchers conducted the first reintroduction of the federally-endangered, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit in sagebrush habitats in central Washington in March, 2007. Ph.D. student, Len Zeoli, working with wildlife ecologists, Dr. Rod Sayler and Dr. Lisa Shipley, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, studied the behavior, survival, and population dynamics of reintroduced pygmy rabbits and developed a population viability model of the ability of the captive breeding program to support the recovery effort.

WSU researchers have been working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2000 to produce enough pygmy rabbits from an emergency captive breeding program to allow reintroduction back into the wild. The captive breeding program at WSU, the Oregon Zoo, and NW Trek, now the only source of Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, has finally produced enough surplus animals to allow reintroduction to begin, however, uncertainty exists about whether enough surplus rabbits can be produced to allow the reintroduction program to continue each year on a steady pace.

Reintroductions had to be suspended in 2008 because there were not enough surplus captive rabbits to allow any to be released in the wild. Consequently, the status of the reintroduction program is being re-evaluated and new strategies are being developed to return pygmy rabbits to sagebrush landscapes in eastern Washington.

If you would like to receive any of our latest reports on this reintroduction program, please contact: r d s a y l e r. w s u. e d u