Lander, WY. – Nongame staff with volunteer help recently surveyed the Chain Lakes WHMA to search for signs of pygmy rabbits. Biologists were encouraged to find scat and burrows at three of the nine sites sampled. Pygmy rabbits are a species of greatest conservation need and one of federal concern, monitoring their populations is important.
Biologists look for pygmy rabbits in the denser, taller stands of sagebrush, which the rabbits prefer over the winter. They know they have found a burrow when they locate a softball size opening at the base of a sagebrush shrub. Smaller burrows would be those of a rodent, like a ground squirrel, vole, or mouse. Then they look for “carpets” of fresh, spherical rabbit scat (ground squirrels, voles, and mice will have oblong scat).
Pygmy rabbits are the smallest North American rabbit, and their scat reflects this, being ~4-6mm in diameter (about the size of a peppercorn), while cottontail scat is typically 6-10mm, and jackrabbit scat is 9-12mm. There can be overlap in size, so finding a burrow can help confirm the sighting.
Photo credits: Rabbit photo, Ken Hickman | Other photos: WGFD