The smallest rabbit species in North America gets added to the ever-growing list of species in trouble, but not enough to be listed under the ESA.
From this story on MSNBC:
The pygmy rabbit does not warrant protection under the endangered species act, a federal agency said Wednesday. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service concluded that while there are pressures to the rabbit’s habitat, it is not enough to threaten the survival of the species.
_The pygmy rabbit is the smallest in North America, growing between 9 and 12 inches in length. “We find there has been some loss and degradation of pygmy rabbit habitat range wide, but not to the magnitude that constitutes a significant threat to the species,” said Bob Williams, the Fish & Wildlife Service supervisor for the region. “The comparison of available historical and current data indicates that pygmy rabbits seem to occur in a similar distribution pattern, and they have been documented as occurring in new locations.”
The agency considered protecting the rabbit in the states of California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. One branch of the species, the Columbia Basin Distinct Population Segment in Eastern Washington, was listed as endangered in 2003. Scientists at Washington State University have for years been breeding and releasing pygmy rabbits in an effort to re-establish a population. Many have been devoured by predators. The Western Watersheds Project has been pushing for protection of the rabbits, which weigh up to one pound and can fit in a man’s palm._
Now this brings up an interesting philosophical and anthropomorphic conundrum: Are there animals out there that are simply too damn cute and cuddly to shoot? I mean, just look at it: the little bugger makes you want to just pick it up and hug it while muttering “aww, cute wittle bunny wabbit.” Or (if populations were high enough to allow hunting) would you prefer to interact with the pygmy rabbit from behind a double-barrel? Is there such a thing as “too cute to hunt?”