This year in celebration of the Chinese Year of The Rabit (February 3, 2011 - January 22, 2012), the Tai Chi Center of Chicago in collaboration with the Oregon Natural Desert Association created the "SAVE THE PYGMY RABBIT" initiative that is open to all.
The mission is to learn more about the gentle Pygmy Rabbit, and to receive donated funds from anyone who loves and cares that he/she continues to have a place to live within its natural habitat. All donated fund will go directly to the "Pygmy Rabbit Fund," operated by the Oregon Natural Desert Association.
Thank you friends of the Pygmy Rabbit, over $1,200 was donated!
Save The Pygmy Rabbit Project The pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and weighing in at around one pound. Pygmy rabbits are highly dependent on sagebrush to provide food and cover throughout the year. Sagebrush habitat throughout the arid West has been impacted by urbanization, agricultural conversion, energy development, and livestock grazing, and with it, pygmy rabbit populations have declined. Additional threats include disease and wildfire.
In 2003, ONDA joined other conservation organizations throughout the West to petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the pygmy rabbit as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. ONDA and other organizations subsequently sued the Fish and Wildlife Service when it failed to respond to the petition, which it is required by the Endangered Species Act to do. The Fish and Wildlife Service then reviewed the petition and claimed the petition did not include enough information to warrant a listing. This finding only supports conservationists' concerns about the plight of the pygmy rabbit: so little is known about pygmy rabbit populations that we may be in danger of losing them before we can prove that they are disappearing. ONDA will continue to support efforts to research and protect these tiny creatures.
About Oregon Natural Desert Association
ONDA is a 1,400-member, grassroots organization committed to protecting, defending, and restoring the health of Oregon's native deserts for present and future generations. Founded in 1987, ONDA is the only group working exclusively to protect Oregon's vast High Desert. Over the past 20 years, ONDA has earned many successes including the protection of Steens Mountain as the nation's first "cow-free" Wilderness in 2000, and the removal of livestock from both the Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and the Wild and Scenic Owyhee River. In 2009 ONDA was instrumental in the designation of the Badlands and Spring Basin Wilderness Area, creating 40,000 acres of new desert wilderness.
To protect, defend, and restore the health of Oregon's native deserts for present and future generations.
We strive for the day when Oregon s native deserts exist in their pristine condition - when Oregon s desert waterways are once again clear and cool, teeming with native fish and birds; when the full range of species that comprise desert ecosystems, from microbiotic crusts to mountain lions, can exist in their original balance; and when the spectacular grasslands that once defined the West are again rolling unobstructed into the distance.
A Personal Message to the Tai Chi Center of Chicago from ONDA
Pygmy Rabbit Conservation in Oregon's High Desert
Pygmy rabbits are unique inhabitants of Oregon's high desert region. These tiny creatures are the only rabbit in America that digs its own burrow. Pygmy rabbits are highly social, and they create extensive tunneling systems by burrowing deep holes in the coarse desert ground. They rely on deep soils for their burrowing activity in order to nest and to protect themselves from predators. As sagebrush is the primary plant they consume, pygmy rabbits need big healthy sagebrush plants for both cover and food.
These characteristics make the pygmy rabbit very sensitive to alterations in its surroundings. Facing the pressures of habitat fragmentation and development, the pygmy rabbit is now threatened. At Oregon Natural Desert association, we believe the best thing we can do to ensure the survival of the pygmy rabbits is to make sure the places they live are protected from industrial development, over grazing by domestic livestock, and off-road vehicle use. This is why ONDA's Wilderness designation efforts are the best solutions for pygmy rabbit conservation and protection for all our sensitive sagebrush inhabitants.
All of ONDA's work to protect Oregon's high desert benefits this unique species. Your donation will support campaigns to preserve wilderness areas that will benefit and protect the vital sagebrush habitat which is critical for the pygmy rabbit to survive and thrive. With your help, pygmy rabbits will not be lost to future generations.
Activities currently underway in our Central Oregon Wilderness Campaigns , Owyhee Wilderness Campaign, Hart-Sheldon Wildlife Connectivity Project, Badlands Wilderness, and our Sage-grouse core habitat mapping program need community support and resources to help ensure sagebrush systems remain intact for all sensitive wildlife, most notably, the pygmy rabbit.
Thank you for supporting this important work to conserve the pygmy rabbit. Caring people like you can and will make a difference in the preservation of Oregon's unique desert ecosystem and the creatures that call these landscapes home.
About The Wildlife In The Owyhee Canyonlands The broad sage brush steppe uplands that flank these Wild and Scenic Rivers contain nationally significant public lands. Among them are hundreds of thousands of acres of outstanding desert wilderness and important sage steppe and riparian wildlife habitat. The Owyhee country is home to redband trout, pronghorn, California bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbit, Brewer's sparrow, sage thrasher, horned lark, northern sagebrush lizard, short-horned lizard, and one of the highest concentrations of sage grouse leks (breeding areas) in southeast Oregon.
About the Pygmy Rabbit
Physical Characteristics The pygmy rabbit is 9 to 11 inches long with a to 1 inch long tail and weighs 13 to 16 ounces. It is the smallest rabbit in the world. The fur on its back is long and silky. In the summer the fur is brown but in the winter it fades to gray. Its torso or underside is a whitish color. Its ears are short and have fur only on the inside edge.
Behavioral Characteristics The pygmy rabbit is a solitary animal however it will make whistling calls if it detects a nearby predator in order to warn its neighbors of the danger. It uses its claws to dig a large burrow system underground with several entrances. It uses its burrows to travel to different feeding areas. They normally do not leap, mostly scampering close to the ground.
Life Cycle The location of the population of the pygmy rabbit determines the breeding season. In Idaho the breeding season is from March to May and in Utah the breeding season is from February to March. Each female can produce up to 3 litters in a single breeding season. The gestation or pregnancy lasts 27 to 30 days. Each litter has 4 to 8 offspring with an average of 6. Both the male and the female of this species appear to reach sexual maturity at about 11 months old. The lifespan of this animal is not well known. Most (88%) die from predation. This includes infants, juveniles and adults. The majority of deaths occur between birth and 5 weeks old.
Diet The pygmy rabbit is herbivorous, feeding mostly on big sagebrush. It also will eat other plant species that are closely related to the big sagebrush. It climbs far into the bush before starting to eat which is unusual for a rabbit.
Habitat The pygmy rabbit is found in the western United States of America in an area known as the Great Basin. It occupies arid habitats where there is an abundance of big sagebrush.