Multiplying like bunnies? Not this jackrabbit

Jul 22, 2009 By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Rabbits are certainly known for their propensity to multiply, but one species of jackrabbit is having trouble keeping up. There are an estimated 150 white-sided jackrabbits left in the United States, and federal wildlife officials announced Wednesday they will study the elusive rabbit to determine if it needs to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

It's not lack of libido that's holding back the white-sided jackrabbit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the biggest threat is change to the rabbits' habitat brought on by drought, grazing, the suppression of wildfire and the encroachment of shrubs into the Chihuahuan of New Mexico's bootheel - the only place in the United States where the jackrabbit has been documented. Wildfire helps keep shrubs in check and revitalizes grasslands, which the rabbits depend on.

The also lives in Mexico, and those populations have also declined, said Nicole Rosmarino, a biologist with the Western environmental group WildEarth Guardians.

Rosmarino said the existing pressures on the white-sided jackrabbit likely will worsen. Forecasters predict extended and more-frequent periods of drought in the Southwest because of .

The Fish and Wildlife Service says it's uncertain how climate change will affect the jackrabbit and its habitat, but it plans to look more closely at the potential impact during its 12-month review.

After the review, the agency will decide whether the rabbit warrants protection as an endangered or threatened species. In New Mexico, the rabbit has been listed as a state endangered species since 1975.

"The rabbit has cleared the first hurdle toward federal protection, so that's good news," Rosmarino said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to review the rabbit is the result of a petition and lawsuit filed by environmentalists.

The rabbit's name comes from a conspicuous white area along its body, most noticeable when the rabbit runs. The jackrabbits, usually seen in pairs, mate for life. While they can produce several litters a year, the litters are usually small - between one and three young.

The rabbit's large ears and long limbs are disproportionate to its body, creating more surface area to help the animal dissipate the heat that's part of living in the desert.

Besides the white-sided jackrabbit, WildEarth Guardians is seeking protections for other species, including the Sonoran desert tortoise. The Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to issue a finding on that species, but WildEarth Guardians says the tortoises' numbers have also been cut in half in recent decades.

As Rosmarino points out, Wednesday's decision by the agency puts the rabbit ahead of the tortoise, in both species' race to avoid extinction.


On the Net:

WildEarth Guardians:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Banksias differ on resilience to climate change

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Feds to reconsider critical habitat for 2 fish

May 07, 2009

(AP) -- A federal judge has ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can reconsider the critical habitat designation of two threatened fish species in New Mexico and Arizona after a probe found political interference likely ...

EPA sued over claims of air pollution in West

Jun 06, 2009

(AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was sued Friday by an environmental group that claims the agency has failed to safeguard public health in the West by not limiting the transmission of air pollution across ...

Feds: Mountain-dwelling pika may need protection

May 06, 2009

(AP) -- A tiny mammal that can't handle warm weather could become the first animal in the lower 48 states to get Endangered Species Act protection primarily because of climate change.

Salazar reviews 'midnight' endangered species rule

Apr 19, 2009

(AP) -- U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he will make a decision in the coming weeks on whether to overturn a controversial Bush administration regulation that limits the reach of the Endangered Species ...

Recommended for you

Salish Sea seagull populations halved since 1980s

1 hour ago

The number of seagulls in the Strait of Georgia is down by 50 per cent from the 1980s and University of British Columbia researchers say the decline reflects changes in the availability of food.

Banksias differ on resilience to climate change

2 hours ago

Research into the germination requirements of four Banksia species (Proteaceae) endemic to the South West Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR) has found certain species may be more vulnerable to climate change ...

China bans ivory carving imports for one year

8 hours ago

Beijing has imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory carvings, amid international criticism that rapidly-growing Chinese demand could push wild African elephants to extinction within a generation.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.