In Ephrata, Washington State, biologists and volunteers have released the last of the utterly adorable Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits (that were produced in a captive breeding program) into grass and sagebrush, marking the latest step in restoring the endangered species to its native habitat.
“It’s a bittersweet thing for me, but it’s a feeling of success,” said Leanne Klinski, who oversaw the Oregon Zoo’s breeding program for the past four years. “To see them come out and contribute to the wild is the best ending you could have — and to be a part of the recovery of this very delicate species just makes my heart melt.”
The pygmy rabbit is America’s smallest native rabbit, weighing less than one pound when fully grown, and it’s the only rabbit that digs burrows. There are other species of pygmy rabbits across the West, but the Columbia Basin species has been geographically separated from them and is genetically distinct.
I hope these iridescently-eared bunnies find great success in Washington, and reproduce, well, like rabbits.