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Keywords:

  • Brachylagus idahoensis;
  • dispersal;
  • experimental translocation;
  • Great Basin;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • pygmy rabbit;
  • radio telemetry;
  • sagebrush

ABSTRACT

We investigated the movements and selection of settlement sites of translocated pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) in southeastern Oregon from June to December 2008. We captured, radio tagged, and translocated 59 pygmy rabbits across big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp.) habitat with 3 categories of landscape fragmentation. We used radio telemetry to track the movements and document the fates of translocated individuals. We used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis software (FRAGSTATS) to analyze the post-release movements and selection of settlement sites by pygmy rabbits. We found that pygmy rabbits settled closer to their release sites as the amount big sagebrush cover on the surrounding landscape increased. In addition, translocated pygmy rabbits settled on sites that, on average, had greater cover, greater landscape connectivity, and fewer but larger patches of big sagebrush than were present at their capture sites. Current or past presence of conspecifics also appeared to be a factor in selection of settlement sites by pygmy rabbits. Successful translocation of wild pygmy rabbits for augmenting depleted populations will require selection of release locations with continuous big sagebrush cover and a history of pygmy rabbit presence. Managers should also expect to lose a portion of translocated pygmy rabbits to homing attempts, post-release dispersal, and predation, so large numbers of individuals should be released to establish resident populations. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.