WDFW researchers use drones to survey Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits


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News release

Media contact: Nicole Jordan, 509-906-6837

EPHRATA – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff and researchers will fly drones over known pygmy rabbit habitat throughout Grant and Douglas counties over the coming year.

The majority of flying will occur over state and federally-managed lands. Surveys may extend to include private lands where pygmy rabbits are known to occur and with permission from landowners.

Occasional flights will occur from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are anticipated to take place from September 2023 to September 2024. Flight timing will depend on the presence of adequate snow on the ground and suitable flight conditions.

“We use drones to help survey pygmy rabbit distribution and map habitat conditions in areas occupied by this species.” said Jon Gallie, WDFW wildlife biologist. “Drones allow us to gather data we would not be able to collect through other methods.”

The drone work will collect images that provide species distribution data to WDFW staff in a safer and more efficient way than this information was able to be gathered in the past.

The pygmy rabbit population in Washington is extremely small and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Threats to the pygmy rabbit include loss and degradation of shrub steppe habitat, primarily due to conversion and fragmentation of this habitat to cropland and development. Wildfire has also decimated pygmy rabbit populations and habitat over the years.

For more on pygmy rabbit recovery efforts, please visit WDFW’s website

WDFW works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Request this information in an alternative format or language at wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation, 833-885-1012, TTY (711), or CivilRightsTeam@dfw.wa.gov.