Identifying and Mapping Crucial Pygmy Rabbit Habitat
The pygmy rabbit belongs to a unique community of animals that depend on sagebrush habitats of the interior American West. By digging underground burrows, pygmy rabbits aerate the soil and recycle nutrients, and their burrows provide refuges for many vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Pygmy rabbits also serve as important prey for birds and mammals. Although, the pygmy rabbit clearly fills a crucial ecological role in the sagebrush community, more information is needed about the species’ distribution in Wyoming, their specific habitat needs, and how energy development may affect their habitat and distribution. Wyoming Game and Fish Department lists pygmy rabbit as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
Sagebrush habitat has been reduced by half since European settlement, and much of what remains has been fragmented by development and degraded by invasions of non-native plants and altered wildfire patterns. This has created concern about pygmy rabbit population trends. Given the extent of current and potential future energy development in the WLCI region, conservation planners seek information about what makes high-quality pygmy rabbit habitats, where those habitats are located, and how energy development affects the amount and quality of habitat.