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Design for the Riparian Brush Rabbit

(Above) Photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The riparian brush rabbit Sylvilagus bachmain riparius is state and federally endangered, with all known populations in the northern San Joaquin Valley facing significant threat of extinction. Declines of brush rabbits have largely been attributed to loss of habitat. These rabbits require dense cover from predators and elevated lands to that are well covered during high waters from floods. The US Fish and Wildlife Habitat Assesment Guidelines and Survey Protocol provide some information about rabbit habitat requirements.

The rabbits are preyed upon by hawks, therefore it is best to plant patches of rabbit habitat without tall trees, as the birds can use these to search the area for prey. Protection from predators is generally sought in dense thickets of rose and blackberry. Trellising plants like elderberry can create additional aerial coverage over the thickets. When possible, these patches of cover should be planted on elevated ground to be used as flood refugia. On the San Joaquin Refuge, “bunny mounds” are constructed to provide well protected flood refugia. The rabbit foraging areas consist of low herbaceous plants such as Spanish clover, gumplant and native grasses, and these should be planted adjacent to patches of cover.

Riparian Brush Rabbit Habitat

(Above) Riparian Brush Rabbit Habitat

Bunny Mound

(Above) Bunny mounds are planted with a dense network of wild rose and California blackberry on the slopes with coyote brush, mulefat, and elderberry on the top of the mound.