Species Spotlight

Pygmy Rabbit in snow
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.
Pygmy Rabbit Distribution from NatureServe Explorer
Image: 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.


Mammals of the Southwest Region

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) [Photo: NPS, Rocky Mountain National Park]
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.

Mammal Species of Greatest Conservation Need
One hundred and sixty-three mammal species have been identified in state wildlife action plans as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) for the Southwest Region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The Southwest Species of Greatest Conservation Need interactive application brings together resources on these 163 GCN mammal species and other GCN taxa from multiple authoritative sources including the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) and NatureServe.

Southwest Species of Greatest Conservation NeedSpecies of Greatest Conservation Need
Browse the interactive application to find out more about the 163 mammal species of greatest conservation need in the Southwest Region.

Mammals in North America

In North America, mammals (non-marine) are represented by numerous taxonomic families within the taxonomic orders below:

American marsupials (Order Didelphimorphia)
The American opossum is the only marsupial found in North America.
Artiodactyls (order Artiodactyla)
This order includes hoofed mammals such as deer, elk, bison, and pigs.
Bats (order Chiroptera)
Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight.
Carnivores (order Carnivora)
Carnivores include predatory mammals such as wolves.
Edentates (order Cingulata)
This order includes armadillos. Armadillos are steadily increasing their range northward from the Southern U.S.
Insectivores (order Soricomorpha)
This order includes moles and shrews, mammals that primarily consume small invertebrates such as insects.
Lagomorphs (order Lagomorpha)
This order is represented by the taxonomic family Leporidae, which includes rabbits, hares, cottontail, and jackrabbits.
Rodents (order Rodentia)
Rodents include mammals such as squirrels, mice, and beaver.

Authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world can be explored using the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), a partner of the NBII.

Featured Resource

Lesser Long-nosed Bat
Lesser Long-nosed Bat eating nectar from saguaro flower.
[Photo: National Park Service]

Mammal pollinators such as bats play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of fruits and vegetables.

Learn more about mammal pollinators.

The NBII Pollinators Project coordinates efforts to address the need for information and technology to support monitoring, management, and conservation of pollinators and pollinator habitats.

Taxonomy Helper

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)


    Kingdom: Animalia
    Division: Chordata
    Subdivision: Vertebrata
    Class: Mammalia
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