As part of a captive-breeding program to restore extirpated Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) to their native habitat in Washington, we documented mating and parental care behavior of these lagomorphs, which was previously unknown. Pygmy rabbits bred from late February through early June, and mating behavior consisted of chasing and brief copulations. Although presented with 1–4 mating partners and 1–6 mating opportunities annually, only 74% of females became pregnant each year. Unlike other lagomorphs, females dug a 16- to 35-cm natal burrow, usually separate from the residential burrow system, an average of 13 days after a successful copulation. Twenty-four days after copulation, females gave birth to 2–7 young at the entrance of the natal burrow and then covered the entrance. Females returned to nurse 1 or 2 times per day, until young emerged from burrows about 15 days after birth. Females averaged 1.3 litters per year, rarely (2%) producing 4 litters. Except for digging a natal burrow, mating and parental care in pygmy rabbits is similar to that of other lagomorphs. Understanding reproductive behavior is critical for captive breeding and reintroduction of pygmy rabbits, and efforts to reduce the consequences of genetic bottlenecks and inbreeding in captivity.
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