In addition to being one of the cutest residents of Oregon's high desert, the pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America. These adorable little creatures are small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, weighing in at around one pound.
Pygmy rabbits are highly dependent on sagebrush to provide food and cover throughout the year. Over the last century, urbanization, agricultural conversion, energy development, and off-road vehicle recreation have eaten away at sagebrush habitat, and pygmy rabbit populations have declined.
In 2003, ONDA joined other conservation organizations throughout the West to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the pygmy rabbit as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. ONDA and other organizations subsequently sued the Fish and Wildlife Service when it failed to respond to the petition, which it is required by the Endangered Species Act to do. The Fish and Wildlife Service then reviewed the petition and claimed the petition did not include enough information to warrant a listing.
This finding only supports conservationists' concerns about the plight of the pygmy rabbit. They fear that so little is known about pygmy rabbit populations that we may be in danger of losing them before we can prove that they are disappearing. ONDA will continue to support efforts to research and protect these tiny creatures.