The Antelope jackrabbit is a North American hare named after the fast-running antelope. These animals are also known for being able to run and leap quickly. Like antelopes, these hares also show flashes, as they run, of their white underside. They are one of five species of jackrabbit that inhabit different regions of North America. They are one of the biggest hares in this region and are larger than rabbits. They make their nests above ground.
Antelope jackrabbits are found mostly along Mexico’s western coast, in the states that are alongside the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. They are also found in Arizona (USA) in a small southern area, mainly in the Sonoran Desert. This species also inhabits Tiburon, a small island near Sonora, a Mexican state. In Arizona, they are typically found in places where grass is growing well under moderately high and open desert shrubs. In Mexico, they like open and low grasslands, and also foothills with patchy grass and low bushes, and are most common in coastal foothills.
Antelope jackrabbits are solitary, nocturnal and crepuscular, but may be active on cloudy days during the day. In the hot season they spend their days staying out of the heat in what are known as "shelter forms," which they create by backing up under weeds, grass, or brush, or simply sitting under the shade of a mesquite trunk or cactus, preferring mesquite or creosote bush. Such shelter helps to deal with the extreme heat of the day. As jackrabbits are coprophagic (i.e. they eat their own feces), the shelter forms might also help them with re-digestion of pellets, through making it safer for them to sit and digest. As with other jackrabbits, antelope jackrabbits live solitary lives. Their long ears enable them to take in their surroundings and listen for predators. In rare circumstances they will use sound to communicate. They may use a pheromone from a rectal gland which secretes a strong musky smell to scent mark their shelter form.
Antelope jackrabbits are folivores (leaf-eaters), graminivores (grass-eaters) and succulent plant eaters (esp. cacti). They mainly eat fresh grass and other types of vegetation. During a drought they will eat cacti and shrubs, such as mesquite and creosote. They do not drink water directly, but get it from what they eat, especially cacti stems.
Antelope jackrabbits are polygynous breeders. This means that one male will mate with more than one female. During the breeding season, the males may fight with one another, kicking with their hind feet and boxing with their forefeet over access to females. Breeding take place from late December until September. 3 to 4 litters can be produced each year if conditions are good. Gestation lasts about 6 weeks, and there are usually 2 young per litter, but 1 to 5 young may be born. At birth they are well-developed (precocial) and at just a few days old they are weaned and independent. It is thought that mothers hide their young in different places after birth, returning to feed them at night. Fathers do not help with caring for their young. Antelope jackrabbits become reproductively mature at 2 years of age.
The main threat to this species is habitat loss. Human impacts on their habitat include housing developments, livestock grazing, recreational trails, and the building of canals. In particular, in southern Arizona their habitat is threatened by a non-native grass species, Lehmann lovegrass, which they cannot eat. Hunting for local subsistence and sport, human influence and exotic predation are further threats. In some places, competition from livestock, habitat fragmentation and fires caused by humans are important threats.
According to IUCN, the Antelope jackrabbit is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.
Antelope jackrabbits are important prey for medium to large terrestrial and avian predators.