Thứ Sáu, Tháng Sáu 2, 2023
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A rabbit rescue operation is launched to save the rabbits from rising flood water

With record-breaking hurricanes wreaking havoc across the state, even rabbits need to be rescued.

For months, a team from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been navigating the Central Valley looking for a way to rescue riverine broom rabbits from rising floodwaters, a small, brown creature. and white are listed as endangered species.

Using canoes and motorboats, the five team members walked the river from sunrise to sunset in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge to rescue rabbits. Some get stuck overhead, on branches or bushes. They were then taken to higher ground when river levels flooded the area.

Fumika Takahashi, wildlife biologist at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, said during operations in January and May. 3, 286 rabbits were rescued.

More activities are planned for next week.

“These rabbits are so resilient, they can come back, but each one you rescue becomes important,” she said.

The rescue effort comes months after the state suffered one of the wettest winter in years.

By Fish and Wildlife Service, the riverside rabbit is believed to be found only in Caswell Memorial State Park and near Lathrop. But in dangerously low numbers, the species has been returned to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, about 75 miles northeast of San Jose.

The shelter manager Eric Hopson said: ‘River bush rabbits are particularly vulnerable to flooding because they live on the river’s edge. declare. “They only live in a small area and there aren’t many of them, so events like this can have a big impact on their population and recovery.”

Biologist Josh Hengel sets up rabbit traps in flood rescue efforts.

Josh Hengel, a shelter biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, sets up a rabbit trap. For months, a team from the wildlife agency searched the Central Valley to rescue these little brown and white creatures. During operations in January and March, 286 rabbits were brought to safety.

(US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Living near the river, the animals have evolved to be able to survive floods, but not for as long as they had to this year, said Takahashi.

“They are really good at climbing on vegetation and can even swim short distances,” she said. “But when we have big floods like this, there’s very little high ground for them to escape to.”

The animals in the area have seen the San Joaquin River flood before, most recently in 2017. But climate change and the landscape are present, with farms increasingly growing in the area. area, which means that rabbits can no longer flee to the highlands. The dikes around the river have cut off the rabbits’ escape, and the flooding has directly affected their habitat.

Because of this, officials have created what are known as “rabbit mounds” or elevated areas in flood-prone areas where animals can escape during floods. But these areas are also limited in terms of food and can sometimes expose rabbits to predators.

In January, 37 rabbits were rescued from the mounds. In March, 110 people were found in the mounds.

This year’s rescues are especially meaningful for endangered rabbits, as the shelter is estimated to have only 2,000 to 3,000 rabbits in the area, Takahashi said.

Biologists worked to trap the rabbits and move them closer to drier ground, at least four to five feet above the floodplain.

But they must be careful that their rescue efforts do not exacerbate a growing problem among the population. As of May 2022, Veterinarian confirmed riverside bush rabbits were confronted with rabbit hemorrhagic virus 2, a highly contagious and deadly disease that has spread rapidly in the western United States.

To limit its spread, officials vaccinated all rescued rabbits. But officials are also concerned that having more rabbits in a smaller area could accelerate the spread of the disease.

Erin Hagen, director of restoration science for River Partners, a nonprofit group it has worked with, says changing the ecology of the environment, moving rabbits and increasing their population densities can also lead to to other undetected problems. rely on saviors.

Officials are also concerned that climate change will make the area more vulnerable to flooding.

“Even though they’re at a safe height, we’re not sure it got the needle on the other side and is completely safe,” Hagen said.

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