Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Jump Starting a Rabbit's Recovery

Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Jump Starting a Rabbit's Recovery

Article excerpt

A secretive mammal that makes its home in the dense riparian woodlands of California's San Joaquin Valley is the focus of attention at San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. Through intensive habitat restoration and species reintroduction programs at the refuge, the highly endangered riparian brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius) may once again flourish in its historical range.

Riparian brush rabbits are endemic to the valley's riparian woodlands, but 95 percent of this important habitat has been lost in California. The last known wild population of the riparian brush rabbit was found in the 1990s along the Stanislaus River in San Joaquin County. Since 2000, the refuge has worked with the Endangered Species Recovery Program at California State University, Stanislaus; the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; recovery biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Service's Sacramento Office; the California Department of Fish and Game; and others to release and monitor captive-bred rabbits in the refuge's dense riparian woodlands. The goal is to establish three new self-sustaining populations.

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Seldom venturing out in the open, the rabbits depend on the heavy cover found in riparian woodlands. Dense thickets of wild rose and blackberry, covered by canopies of oak and willow, protect them from predators such as raptors and coyotes. Using funds acquired through a variety of sources, the refuge has been working with River Partners, Inc.--an environmental organization--to restore riparian habitat by planting over 250,000 native plants on 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of refuge land. …

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