As the name implies this is the smallest of Idaho rabbits. It differs from all other rabbits because its small, fluffy tail has no white on it. It also has much smaller hind feet than other rabbit species. The upper part of its body is buffy gray to almost black, the nape of the neck and front legs are cinnamon color. It has whitish spots on the side of its nostrils that also distinguishes it from all others. The pygmy rabbit is small, total length is 9.7 to 11.3 (250-290 mm), tail length is .75 to 1.25 inches (20-30 mm), and it weighs only 8.5 to 16 ounces (246-458 grams).
Its range is limited, from Great Basin (with isolated population in east-central Washington), north to extreme southwestern Montana. It is limited to the high plains in this area between 4500 and 7000 feet.
Typically found in dense stands of big sagebrush growing in deep, loose sediment. In Idaho, closely associated with large stands of sagebrush; prefers areas of tall, dense sagebrush cover with high percent woody cover.
In Idaho, big sagebrush is primary food source, but grasses and forbs are eaten in mid- to late summer.
Active throughout year. May be active at any time of day or night, but is generally crepuscular . It may be the only rabbit that digs and uses a fairly complex burrow system. Burrows are an average of 7.6 cm in diameter, and may have 3 or more entrances with shallow trenches often extending out from the entrances. The entrances are often located at the base of sagebrush. They also may use badger and marmot burrows. Individuals do not appear to move far from burrow when feeding. Predators include weasels, coyotes, and owls.
Breeding period extends from spring to early summer (Idaho study found males capable of breeding from January-June, females from February-June; juveniles did not breed). Gestation probably lasts about 27-30 days. Female may produce 6 young/litter . Idaho study found lower reproductive potential in this species than in most lagomorphs.
Important State References:
Green, J.S. and J.T. Flinders. 1980. Habitat and dietary relationships of the pygmy rabbit. J. Range Manage. 33:136-142.