Washington to use drones to track pygmy rabbits


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is planning to look for pygmy rabbits using drones over the next year.

WDFW said in a news release Tuesday that its staff would fly drones over known pygmy rabbit habitat in Grant and Douglas counties beginning this month. The work will continue until September 2024.

Most of the flying will happen over public land, but surveys may extend to private land where the rabbits are known to live.

Jon Gallie, a biologist for WDFW, said in the release that the drones help them map habitat and track the distribution of pygmy rabbits, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Drones allow us to gather data we would not be able to collect through other methods,” Gallie said.

Occasional flights will happen between 8 a .m. and 5 p.m. Timing will depend on snowfall and flight conditions.

Washington’s pygmy rabbit population is small. It’s threatened by the loss of shrubsteppe habitat, and the population has also been harmed by wildfire.