The volcano rabbit, also called the zacatuche or teporingo, resides in some small areas of the mountains of central Mexico. They are endangered in their native habitat, although many live and are bred in captivity. In the wild, volcano rabbits can be found at altitudes above 9,500 feet above sea level and prefer wooded and grassy areas.
Their habitats have been fragmented by human construction (e.g. roads) and deforestation. Their population also suffers from climate change. Over the past several decades, their habitat has warmed about six degrees Fahrenheit. Many people who live near volcano rabbits aren’t aware that they are endangered and that it is illegal to hunt them.
Volcano rabbits prefer a diet of various grasses, although they tend to supplement the grasses with flowers, bark, and leaves. It is difficult for these rabbits to find enough protein, so the amount of protein-rich food in their habitats limits how large their populations can grow.
Adult volcano rabbits weigh just over a pound (females are somewhat larger than males). They are the second smallest rabbits in the world. The only rabbit smaller than them is the pygmy rabbit. Their ears are smaller than many other rabbits’. They also have vestigial tails which are not visible as adults. They don’t have the hind leg strength and speed of other rabbits so need to hide from predators rather than flee. Some of their predators are coyotes and hawks. When threatened, the volcano rabbit will hide in their burrows (which are covered with thick grass) or vocalize and thump their legs on the ground.
They are somewhat social animals. Small groups consisting of two to five individuals are common. The group usually will have a dominant female and male who are the only ones who breed in the group. They have been observed to play but also show aggression. Dominant females may be aggressive to all subordinates but dominant males have never been seen to be aggressive.
Little is known about how volcano rabbits raise their young in the wild. They are known to dig burrows, but individuals in captivity build grassy nests instead. In captivity, they are monogamous. This may not be the case naturally. Volcano rabbits have a long gestation period for rabbits (over a month) and on average have four kits. The kits are completely weaned at about three weeks old, but they aren’t fully grown until the does are eight months old and the bucks are five months.
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