Today the AP reports that the genetically unique Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is essentially extinct. Presently, the only known bunnies are in captivity. The last male has died, leaving two females. The Tri-City Herald presaged this news with an editorial on the rabbit’s plight just a week ago.
It’s a shame that the majority of endangered-species crusades revolve around the majestic, calendar-quality animals like bears, whales, caribou and wolves. The pygmy rabbit was a species unique to our region—certainly cute enough to qualify as “charismatic minifauna.” Perhaps the lack of attention to the rabbit was related to its habitat—the relatively monotonous sagebrush country of Eastern Washington. (I actually love this landscape, but all the national parks in Washington are concentrated around alpine. Same with B.C.)
My colleague Eric de Place, who tracks the health of Northwest wildlife populations, wrote a smart blog post related to this subject a few months ago: Looks Matter (to Ecosystems). I recommend it.
Lastly, in Tidepool’s science section, it’s the twenty-sixth anniversary of the great eruption of Mount St. Helens. A couple of stories report on the state of the volcano today. (Watch out: It’s still erupting.)