March 28, 2023

A Field Guide to Jackrabbits

There are other differences between rabbits and hares. Hares tend to be substantially larger animals.
Hares do not use burrows like numerous bunny types do. Ill typically find anxieties utilized by black-tailed jackrabbits dug out under huge sagebrush.
Jackrabbits are critters of reasonably open country. They are rather active at dawn and dusk, and you will frequently see them darting across the roadway throughout the night.
These animals are constructed for a speedy vacation. They can jump 20 feet in a bound and race away at 30 miles per hour.
A white-tailed jackrabbit on the run. © Cataloging Nature/ Flickr
About Those Ears
When somebody sees a jackrabbit for the first time, the response is foreseeable: “Look at those ears.”
Theyre a remarkable adjustment that helps the jackrabbit grow in often-harsh environments. The huge ears permit jackrabbits to hear predators approaching at a difference. They also serve a cooling function.
Jackrabbit ears are largely hairless and filled with capillary. As described by National Geographic, “A jackrabbits huge ears supply a large area for heat exchange. The blood vessels can broaden (a process called vasodilation), allowing more warm blood to distribute to the ears for even greater heat loss.”
At temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, a jackrabbits ears can “shed all of the animals excess heat.”
A black-tailed jackrabbit mixes into its surroundings. © Rick Cameron/ Flickr
Finding Jackrabbits
As previously mentioned, youre most likely probably to spot jackrabbits darting throughout a desert highway at night. This isnt the most satisfying view.
Its far much better to gradually cruise quiet roads at dawn and sunset. You can typically see animals sitting together with the road, alert for risk. A “night safari” with a spotlight or good flashlight will typically reveal great deals of jackrabbits (be sure to inspect regional regulations on this activity).
You can see jackrabbits during the day, too. Note where you have seen them at night and return.
Search for spots of lighter fur (numerous types have lighter-colored sides). Search for anything that looks out of location. And, yes, search for big ears.
Scan each bush and view every step. You will undoubtedly bump some, especially if youre in a location with a high jackrabbit density. Sometimes they will leap up just a few feet far from you. Enjoy the bounding jumps as those big ears move through the low brush.
There are 6 jackrabbit types. Some are amongst the most abundant mammals in the western United States. Others need a specialized safari. Lets have a look at every one.
A black-tailed jackrabbit. © Mark Gunn/ Flickr
Black-tailed Jackrabbit
This is the types youre probably to see on your national forest getaway. The black-tailed jackrabbit is the most plentiful jackrabbit, and it ranges commonly across the western United States and Mexico. It can be found as far east as Missouri to coastal California. They can be found in a range of semi-open and open habitats.
Black-tailed jackrabbits can be determined not only by the black on their tails (as you d anticipate), however likewise by black on their ears. This is quite prominent and the most convenient method to differentiate them from other species in their variety. They likewise typically have a black stripe visible on their back.
I see big numbers on my high-desert journey in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and Utah. This is sagebrush country. I discover black-tailed jackrabbits (and sometimes large numbers) in degraded sagebrush habitat. It does not need to be beautiful. There does have to be a fair amount of brushy cover. I never ever see them in areas totally taken over by invasive cheatgrass. The cover is crucial.
Black-tailed jackrabbit populations are cyclical. If you spend a great deal of time exploring their environment, as I do, this is rather noticeable. Some years, I can see lots of jackrabbits in a trip. Other years, in the exact same location, I may struggle to capture a glimpse of one.
As spring approaches, the white winter season coat is slowly replaced with a brown coat on this white-tailed jackrabbit. © Tom Koerner, USFWS/ Flickr
White-tailed Jackrabbit
The white-tailed jackrabbit is another typical and extensive types, discovered in the northern parts of the western United States and upper Midwest and the Canadian meadow provinces.
In the northern parts of its variety, it also turns white in winter, a striking sight. I also believe it looks “furrier” than a black-tailed jackrabbit.
Sources say the white-tailed jackrabbit has expanded north in locations where forests are cleared for agriculture. However its not always a rosy photo for white-tailed jackrabbits. Decreases have been reported in lots of locations.
My home in Idaho has both white-tailed and black-tailed jackrabbits. In part, it might simply be that white-tailed jackrabbits are less versatile than black-tailed jackrabbits.
The outstanding referral guide Lagomorphs (Johns Hopkins Press) keeps in mind that black-tailed jackrabbits consume a wider range of vegetation, providing a competitive benefit. With environment deterioration, black-tailed jackrabbits have expanded, while the range of white-tailed jackrabbits has actually contracted.
White-tailed jackrabbits are more various in the northern parts of their variety, and aggregations of more than 100 have been reported. Ive never seen this in Idaho, and have actually rarely seen more than one or two in a walking.
A captive antelope jackrabbit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ. © Frank Fujimoto/ Flickr
Antelope Jackrabbit
The book Lagomorphs notes “The antelope jackrabbit has actually been thought about the handsomest and most striking of the North American hares.” I concur. Its an incredible beast, with the biggest ears and long legs. When it escapes, you see flashes of white on its rump, similar to a pronghorn “antelope” (and thus, its name). The antelope jackrabbit is discovered in southern Arizona and northern Mexico, where it is in your area typical.
It is a desert animal, where it survives on a range of greenery, including cacti.
Arizona has ended up being a popular location for birders, and truly so. The state also uses outstanding mammal viewing, and if youre visiting one of the bird lodges, you owe it yourself to do a bit of searching for the furry critters– including antelope jackrabbits.
As sunset approached, I began seeing the animals. The large ears stuck out in the desert habitat. The antelope jackrabbit remains my preferred.
Two white-sided jackrabbits. © Juan Cruzado Cortés/ Wikimedia Commons
White-Sided Jackrabbit
This is another charismatic jackrabbit, with the lovely white sides that offer the species its common name. It is relatively prevalent if unusual in a big location of Mexico (although more research study is needed, a typical style with jackrabbit preservation).
In the United States, it would have to rate as one of the more tough types to find. Because it is found in just Hidalgo County in New Mexico, thats. And its not very common there. Hard-core mammal lovers search in the Animas Valley. Vladimir Dinets in his Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals, suggests Highway 338 south of Animas. A lot of successful spotters slowly travel the roadways at night. Its not a bad concept to let local law enforcement understand of your strategies beforehand so as to prevent suspicion. I have not done this trip, but its on my list.
A Tehuantepec jackrabbit. © tereso30/ Wikimedia Commons
Tehuantepec Jackrabbit
The previous jackrabbits range over fairly wide locations and, while there may be preservation issues (more on this in a bit) are not unusual in appropriate habitat. The Tehuantepec jackrabbit, on the contrary, is considered by some conservation biologists to be one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
This Mexican endemic is discovered only in 4 separated populations around the Laguna Superior and Laguna Inferior of the Tehuantepec Isthmus of Oaxaca.
It deals with the complete range of conservation dangers: overhunting, effects from intrusive grasses, environment loss, overgrazing and hereditary problems increasing from small, detached populations.
This jackrabbit has a bright white underside and a yellow throat patch. Its a cool-looking animal that really few know about. Im not sure there are enough mammal-watching fans to construct a wildlife tourist program for this types, however plainly the Tehuantepec jackrabbit needs more advocates.
A black Jackrabbit ( Lepus insularis), in southeastern Baja. © squamatologist/ Flickr
Black Jackrabbit
Heres another Mexican endemic with a limited variety; the black jackrabbit is found on Espiritu Santo Island and La Partida Island in the Gulf of California. Thankfully, Espiritu Santa Island is an ecological reserve. It is house to a number of other endemic mammals, and can be gone to on kayaking trips and other eco-tours.
Some biologists have argued that the jackrabbit is actually just a melanistic kind of the common black-tailed jackrabbit. Current hereditary evidence suggests it is a separate types. Either method, its a cool animal. And looking for island endemics is always a fantastic adventure for naturalists.
Espiritu Santo Island is likewise home to feral goats, which could take on the jackrabbits. Hunters pursue these goats, keeping their populations in check, but the hunters in some cases likewise target jackrabbits.
Jackrabbits are stunning, interesting animals. I presume, even with the plentiful types, their numbers are much less plentiful today. They are worthy of more research study. Theyre likewise worth seeking, whether you live in their range or are visiting on holiday. Theyll check your field abilities. Put in the time, and youll be rewarded with observations of one of the coolest critters in the West.

When the ground appears to blow up under my feet, Im strolling through the high desert scrub. I see a creature make a relatively impossible leap. And then I see ears. Really huge ears. A black-tailed jackrabbit.
I always enjoy seeing these animals in the sagebrush and other brushy environment near my southern Idaho home. Theyre a typical animal and yet not as simple to see as you may believe. Theyre quite wary. Getting a clear observation, let alone a photograph, will check your field skills.
Ive come to believe of jackrabbits as the arid American Wests version of arid Australias kangaroos. Lots of visitors would like to see one and figure it will be a simple task.
There are 6 types of jackrabbits that live in Mexico, a little part of Canada, and a swath of the western United States. Lets take a look at these remarkable animals and where to find them.
A black-tailed jackrabbit hiding in the Nebraska meadow. © Chris Helzer/ TNC
Satisfy the Jackrabbits
Things first: Jackrabbits are not rabbits. Jackrabbit varieties overlap with that of a number of bunny types in North America, but theyre pretty simple to tell apart simply based on size alone.
The huge ears, long legs and big ears of any jackrabbit types are apparent. (The desert cottontail likewise has large ears, but its a little animal, the size of a normal yard bunny).

You can see jackrabbits during the day, too. The black-tailed jackrabbit is the most abundant jackrabbit, and it ranges widely across the western United States and Mexico. Some years, I can see dozens of jackrabbits in a getaway. In part, it may simply be that white-tailed jackrabbits are less versatile than black-tailed jackrabbits.
Some biologists have argued that the jackrabbit is really simply a melanistic form of the typical black-tailed jackrabbit.

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