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Pygmy Rabbit in snow [Photo: H. Ulmschneider and R. Dixon]
Pygmy Rabbit Brachylagus idahoensis
Description:The smallest North American leporid (at around 29 centimeters average length), the Pygmy Rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) ranges through much of the Great Basin and beyond in sagebrush dominated habitats. Pygmy rabbits are often confused with juvenile cottontails, but can be distinguished by their tails, which are uniformly brown in coloration and small in size, giving the impression that they are tailless. Also, the trailing edge of their ears have a pale buff marking.
Life History:Pygmy rabbits spend the majority of their life cycles within 30 meters of their burrow. The breeding period is from spring to early summer. Their winter diet consists predominantly of sagebrush; their summer diet is a mixture of sagebrush, grasses, and forbs. Active throughout the year, and generally crepuscular.
Habitat:Dense, tall stands of sagebrush associated with deep, loose soils for the construction of burrows. Pygmy rabbits are the only North American rabbit to dig their own burrows.
Distribution:Moderately large range in the Great Basin and Intermountain West; a genetically distinct population exists in the Columbia Basin.
Distribution of the Pygmy Rabbit [Image: NatureServe Explorer]
Status:The Columbia Basin population is federally listed as an endangered species; Great Basin populations are in decline throughout their range, but the level and scope of decline is unknown.
Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) [Photo: NPS, Rocky Mountain National Park]
Mammals are vertebrates of the taxonomic class Mammalia, which includes animals such as American marsupials, insectivores, bats, edentates, lagomorphs, rodents, carnivores, and artiodactyls. Thought of as warm-blooded, mammals are endotherms, meaning they are able to regulate their own body temperature independently of the temperature of their surroundings. Mammal characteristics include skin covered with hairs, females with mammary glands that secrete milk to feed young, and a reproduction strategy of internal fertilization and bearing relatively mature live offspring.