Until recently, natal behavior of pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) was largely unknown, and no information on survival of free-ranging juveniles was available. We evaluated survival of radiotagged juvenile pygmy rabbits at 2 sites in east-central Idaho, USA, during 2004 and 2005. We captured juveniles (n = 58) shortly after they emerged from natal burrows. Mortality rates were high and variable, ranging from 27% for females during 2004 to 63% for males during 2005. Approximately 69% of mortalities were attributed to predation. We evaluated variables influencing juvenile survival through 18 weeks old using known-fate models in Program MARK. We expected survival to decline around the age of natal dispersal and to be lower for young born later in the season. We evaluated 14 candidate models that included sex, year, study area, and relative date of birth within each year. Model selection results did not indicate strong support for any single combination of variables, and 8 competing models all included effects of relative date of birth, year, and study area. These results revealed substantial variability in survival of juveniles across multiple factors, and we documented similar patterns for adult pygmy rabbits. Such high variability in survival over relatively small spatial and temporal scales might contribute to marked fluctuations in populations of pygmy rabbits and, hence, managers interested in monitoring this species might consider monitoring multiple populations across broader geographic areas to assess regional trends in numbers.
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Vol. 74 • No. 1