Monday, April 26, 2010

My pygmy neighbor

When not out with the sheep, Rant has been curled up next to the shed the last few days, while Rena has been “guarding” the pipe rabbit habitat, which consists of stacks of fencing supplies and pipe, and miscellaneous equipment. Today when I came around the corner of the shed, I saw a pygmy rabbit drive underneath. Ah-ha! That’s why Rant has been hanging out there. I grabbed my camera and came back around the corner to find the pygmy rabbit was far faster than my camera focus. One more try later, I realized I needed a new tactic.

I got in the truck and drove up to the front of the shed, and parked without getting out. I had the camera pointed on the opening under the shed, ready to rock. It took about five minutes before the little bugger came back out and I was rewarded for my efforts.

Of course I have no idea, but I think this particular pygmy rabbit appears masculine, so I’ve decided it’s a boy and I’ve named him Buck. He was very tolerant about me sitting in the truck, shooting photos, so when I finished up, I dropped off a flake of alfalfa for him. His burrow is next to where Jim parks the tractor every night, and there is always a little alfalfa left in the bucket, so Buck should get fat.

The funny thing is that although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claims that pygmy rabbits are only associated with tall sagebrush, that’s not the case on our ranch. Here they are associated with low sagebrush, hard rocky soils and prairie dog colonies. We see pygmy rabbits every year here on the ranch. Although the FWS has determined that the pygmy rabbit may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, I would like to see more census effort made outside of tall sagebrush. I think they’ll find there are more than previously believed.


shadygrove said...

Oddly, I just read this morning.

Cat Urbigkit said...

That was the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit - we have a different kind here (Brachylagus idahoensis).

shadygrove said...

Out of curiosity, what is the difference? Other than Geography...

Cat Urbigkit said...

I just did some quick research, and as it turns out, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is a subpopulation of the species that occurs on our ranch. FWS reports it "is believed to have been disjunct from the remainder of the species' range for at least 10,000 years, as suggested by the fossil record, and possibly as long as 40,000 to 115,000 years, as suggested by population genetic analyses."

The good news is that it was declared extinct once before, and they were wrong then. Could be wrong again. The National Geographic book on the rarest of the rare also includes the grizzly bear, which has reached federally defined biological recovery goals.

shadygrove said...

Well, as you said above, they could be looking in the wrong grass.

Thanks for looking that up and clarifying for me. I had never heard of them.

Holly Heyser said...

Interesting - a friend of mine has a ranch on California's central coast, and he says he's got pygmy rabbits there, too, though I haven't seen them.

Nice shots!

Eliza Rizo said...

Dear Cat Urbigkit

We would very much like your permission to publish the image "My pygmy neighbor" that appears on this post in the reading book "Curiosities of Nature" for first grade which Astoreca Foundation is currently editing.

Astoreca Foundation is a Chilean nonprofit educational organization dedicated to the enrichment of education for children of needy families. We have two schools, San Joaquin and San José in Renca and Lampa which provide free education to more than 1,300 students with excellent academic results.
Since 2008, Astoreca has been developing its editorial area, with the aim of creating quality books for all schools at affordable prices. We have seven books published, which we sell at minimum puplishing cost for schools most in need.
We are currently developing a new volume of our "Curiosities of the World" and "Curiosities of Nature", for children of first grade. They are books for daily reading with short informational selections which aim at motivating reading through fun, interesting and visually attractive texts so that the images are extremely important.
For this reason we ask your permission to use your photo "My pygmy neighbor" in our book "Curiosities of Nature", as it illustrates our chosen reading text excellently.

If you permit the use ot the image mentioned, we shall need the image in high resolution (300 dpi) for best results in printing. Of course Astoreca Foundation will publish the photo credits page copyright that you deem appropriate.
We look forward to your cooperation for this important project whose main objective is promoting reading and knowledge in children in most vulnerable situations.

Best Regards
Eliza Rizo