What’s Up Doc? Well, local extinction, silly wabbit …

i-75d5dad027c8d7f25dc7c06c362b9088-jack_rabbit.jpgHistorical records indicate that 130 years ago, the white-tailed jack rabbit was abundant in the Yellowstone vicinity. The last confirmed sighting was in 1991. What happened? This apparently remains a mystery, according to Rabbit Expert Joel Berger.

“It could be disease, extreme weather, predation, or other factors,” he says. “Since the rabbits blipped off without knowledge, there has simply been no way to get at the underlying cause.”Berger believes the absence of jack rabbits–historically, an important prey species in the ecosystem–may lead coyotes to rely on juvenile elk, pronghorn, and other ungulates for food. Predators elsewhere tend to prey more heavily on livestock when rabbit densities drop. But without baseline data on rabbit numbers in Greater Yellowstone, it is difficult to assess the impacts on predators such as grey wolves, which were reintroduced in 1995.”Lacking a sense of historical conditions, it will always be difficult to decide whether current systems function ecologically like past ones,” says Berger.

Berger is proposing a reintroduction scheme.[source]For its part, the Bush Administration has assigned one of their chief conservation officers, Elmer Fudd, to look into the matter.

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3 thoughts on “What’s Up Doc? Well, local extinction, silly wabbit …

  1. I hope you’ve discovered by now, Greg, that there is actually more to this cautionary tale, which doesn’t necessarily fit into the original storyline. Calls for reintroduction may be premature, since it seems the jackrabbits may not actually be locally extinct after all!Its funny how many of us accepted the conclusions of the paper and ran with the “cautionary tale” perhaps because it fits so nicely with our conservation paradigms (sorry – I almost said frames there!) – yet all Berger (and the rest of us) had to do was to ask ordinary people who live in the area if they’d seen the jackrabbits! How often, and why, do we forget that?

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