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Fossil Butte National Monument

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Relatively little is known about pygmy rabbits Brachylagus idahoensis except that they are typically associated with dense stands of big sage Artemisia tridentata. Because they are entirely dependent on sagebrush communities for survival, however, they may potentially serve as an effective means of environmental surveillance in shrub-steppe grasslands. The overall objective of this study is to clarify some of the ecological/physiological adaptations of the world's smallest leporid and define its obligate shrub-steppe association relative to structural, compositional, and micrometeorological features. We placed particular emphasis on the winter ecology of pygmy rabbits, and on understanding how such a small species (400 grams) that does not hibernate or significantly deposit fat, manages to survive in areas of extreme environmental temperatures, consuming primarily sagebrush.