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Yellowstone's rabbits have vanished, study says


Jack rabbits like these shown above have mysteriously vainished from Yellowstone, a Wildlife Conservation Society study says.
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NEW YORK (February 14, 2008) – A new study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society found that jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have apparently hopped into oblivion. The study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Oryx, also speculates that the disappearance of jack rabbits may be having region-wide impacts on a variety of other prey species and their predators.

According to the study, historical records from more than 130 years ago indicate that white-tailed jack rabbits were once locally abundant in Greater Yellowstone, a 60,000 square kilometer (23,166 square mile) ecosystem that contains both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. However, the WCS study found that no jack rabbit sightings could be confirmed in Yellowstone since 1991 and only three in Grand Teton since 1978.

No one knows what caused the rabbits to disappear, according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Joel Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist, and professor at the University of Montana. “It could be disease, extreme weather, predation or other factors,” Dr. Berger said. “Since the rabbits blipped off without knowledge, there has simply been no way to get at the underlying cause.”

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