Espiritu Santo jackrabbit, Black hare
The Black jackrabbit is a hare native to Mexico. The only known location of this species is in the Gulf of California on Espiritu Santo Island. These hares are mainly glossy black with a fine dark cinnamon grizzling on their backs, with their underside being predominantly dark cinnamon. They have heavily padded soles to their feet. Black jackrabbit females are typically larger than males, like other hares.
Black jackrabbits are native to Espiritu Santo Island. They have also been introduced to Pichilinque Island, which is nearby. They are widespread on Espiritu Santo Island but most abundant in valleys and the adjoining lower slopes of hills. This island is a volcanic waterless island characterized by low mountains and rocky hills. Black jackrabbits prefer places that feature arid tropical shrubs, and plants like cacti, as the upper slopes are barren and rocky.
Habits and lifestyle
Black jackrabbits live solitary lives. Instead of digging and occupying burrows, these animals take shelter and rest in shallow depressions in soil or vegetation. In such a position, they look like a short, charred stump amongst the gray-green vegetation or on bare slopes and are very conspicuous, even when keeping still. Black jackrabbits are mostly nocturnal, spending most of the day in shade under bushes. When the mating season is in full swing, males lose their usual caution and are out and about pursuing females and fighting with other males, boxing with their forefeet and kicking with their hind feet.
Diet and nutrition
Not much is known about mating and the reproductive patterns of this species. However, they exhibit either polygynous (one male and multiple females) or polygynandrous (promiscuous - both the male and female have multiple partners) behavior. The mating season is usually just during the milder seasons, typically from January to August. A female will produce two or three litters during spring and summer, with normally three to four young per litter. Gestation is usually for 41 to 43 days. Different to rabbits, the young of this species are precocial, being well furred when born, with their eyes open, and able to move about soon after they are born. Weaning lasts just a few days, which is when the mother abandons her young.
The major threats to these animals are disturbance by humans, disturbance and loss of habitat due to exotic animals, and competition with domestic animals.
According to IUCN, the Black jackrabbit is common and widespread on the island but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- Except for its color and skull characteristics, Black jackrabbits are very similar to the Black-tailed jackrabbit, a mainland species. This animal may have started to separately evolve 5,000-12,000 years ago, at which time the island separated off from the mainland. The absence of predators could be the reason for its striking black fur.
- Jackrabbits are actually not rabbits but hares. Although similar, hares are born with their fur and they grow to be bigger. Rabbits are born without fur. Jackrabbits have longer back legs and bigger ears. Jackrabbits can grow to two feet tall, about half the size of an elementary school child.
- 5 species of jackrabbit are found in the central and western regions of North America.
- A jackrabbit has a keen sense of hearing, which it uses for detection of predators.
- Like other prey species, hares have their eyes positioned on their head to enable them to view each side.
- Except Antarctica, every continent has hares living on it.