Recovery efforts for the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit have experienced both highs and lows over the past year. Most notable was the 2017 Sutherland Canyon wildfire that severely impacted the Beezley Hills Recovery Area, one of three pygmy rabbit identified Recovery Areas in Douglas and Grant Counties. Fire damage was extensive; a complete loss of our most productive breeding enclosure, a large portion of the captive breeding population, and nearly half of the suitable habitat available to release rabbits into, all resulting in this area being less suitable as a recovery area for rabbits for the next couple of years. As a result, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners are preparing to shift reintroduction efforts to Douglas County around Jameson Lake this coming spring/summer.
On the bright side, crews have been working this winter to survey the Recovery Areas to determine the distribution and size of the wild pygmy rabbit population. The population within the Sagebrush Flats Recovery Area is doing well and continues to grow and expand since release effort were completed in 2016. We have been surprised to see them make extensive use of mature CRP fields as they recolonize the landscape. Within the Beezley Hills Recovery Area, we continue to survey unburned habitat and believe a small number of rabbits are persisting there.
This past fall WDFW collaboratively worked with the Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD) to reach out to out to landowners around Jameson Lake making them aware of the reintroduction plans and options available to them providing regulatory certainty for the continued operation of their farming practices.
If you have any questions or want additional information on Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit recovery efforts please contact Jon Gallie with WDFW at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have questions or concerns about regulatory tools available, please contact FCCD or WDFW Private Lands Biologists (509-754-4624)