The pygmy rabbit is the smallest North American member of the family Leporidae, with all hares and rabbits. They usually weigh about a pound and are about 9-12 inches in length. One of them could fit in the palm of your hand. They are also one of the only species of rabbit that dig their own burrows in deep, loose soil.
Habitat: Pygmy rabbits need a lot of sagebrush steppe habitat to survive. They live throughout southern Idaho's well-established sagebrush steppe ecosystems. They are also elusive and hard to see, so keep your eyes peeled. The BLM and U.S. Geological Survey have been evaluating the use of unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to survey habitat in Blaine County, Idaho.
Food: Pygmy rabbits eat sagebrush - one of only a few animals adapted to do so. Chemicals in sagebrush called monoturpenoids are toxic to most animals if eaten in such large amounts, but the pygmy rabbit is uniquely adapted to tolerate them. In winter, their diet is 99% sagebrush.
Facts: Pygmy rabbits in Idaho and the Columbia Basin are being raised in captivity to help rebuild populations. Managing and enhancing shrub-steppe habitat is another important aspect of species conservation. Land management agencies are currently working to improve sagebrush-steppe habitats and cooperating with private land owners to conserve habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a programmatic "safe harbor" agreement to provide regulatory security for private landowners after rabbit reintroductions.
Links: Pygmy rabbits are also endangered in some states. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife species webpage has information about pygmy rabbits and other species of concern.
For pygmy rabbit survey information, read a 2008 survey by the Interagency Pygmy Rabbit Working Group.