Final effort to save tiny rabbits from extinction

By Nicholas K. Geranios | June 13, 2011 | 3:26 AM EDT

EPHRATA, Wash. (AP) — Wildlife experts are making one last effort to save the endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, believed extinct in the wild since mid-2004.

The pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America, and can fit in a person's hand. Adults weigh about a pound and measure less than a foot in length. The previous effort to reintroduce the pygmy in 2007 ended badly when they were quickly gobbled by their many predators.

Some 100 pygmy rabbits are being released this time into large wire enclosures.

The rabbits — who were raised in captivity for this last-ditch effort — must learn quickly to find food, breed and avoid being eaten. The wire enclosures give them a fighting chance to survive, scientists say.