the

Endangered pygmy rabbits hop to freedom

for over one hundred thousand years one

animal has called washington's shrub

step

home you got one more rabbit and 20

years ago experts say there were nearly

16 left in washington it's our fault

that they're not here anymore

fish and wildlife biologist joanne

wisniewski leads an effort to protect

pygmies from extinction

just the short ones they're gray but

they're short

today biologists are preparing the

rabbits for release they've grown up

beside

fences and under netting to help boost

survival

all on land that started as a young

boy's vision

because i was convinced i'd seen a pygmy

rabbit when i was a child

so when peter lancaster retired from

microsoft he devoted his free time to

the endangered pygmies

scouring the shrub step of central

washington looking for colonies

then one day 16 years ago i was on cloud

nine

it was two years i've been lucky for two

years and suddenly i saw a sign i saw

pellets on the ground

but someone just bought the land and

planned to sell it i had to sort of step

in to buy it that's why

i own this section lancaster bought

nearly

1 000 acres it's now a semi wild

breeding program for pygmy rabbits

feeling really optimistic right now

wisniewski says the private land and

more than 100 volunteers how did you

catch one

like 13-year-old audrey rogerson have

made the program successful

pretty amazing and i think everybody's

just a little surprised this is their

fourth summer release the first year

they freed 100 rabbits

last summer the count was 830.

it feels pretty good now i have no

worries there's so many rabbits

they're loaded into trucks and driven a

few miles to their new home

ranching's left less than 50 percent of

their ecosystem

intact sagebrush is really all the pygmy

rabbit eats

and when they disappeared hawks and

other large predators did

too

after a quarter mile hike a few dozen

rabbits are released into plastic

burrows

their prey to nearly every wild animal

out here

but this is their best chance hopefully

we'll be successful