White-Tailed Jackrabbit

White-Tailed Jackrabbit

Prairie hare, White jack

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Lepus townsendii
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
3-8 yrs
TOP SPEED
55 km/h
WEIGHT
2.5-4 kg
LENGTH
56-65 cm

The White-tailed jackrabbit is a large hare found in North America. It has distinctive, large, grey ears with black tips which are chestnut brown and white on the inside; and the long, powerful hind legs characteristic of hares. The back, flanks, and limbs are dark brown or greyish-brown and the underparts are pale grey. The tail is white with a dark central stripe above. Females are slightly larger than males. In northern populations, this hare molts in the autumn and becomes white all over except for its ears.

Distribution

White-tailed jackrabbits are found in western and central parts of North America. Their range includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario in Canada and Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois in the United States. Whitetails inhabit plains and prairie and alpine meadows with scattered coniferous trees. They are also often seen in suburban parks in Western Canada.

White-Tailed Jackrabbit habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

White-tailed jackrabbits are nocturnal animals; they rest during the day in a form, a shallow depression in the ground hidden under vegetation and emerge at dusk to feed. They are solitary and only come together during the breeding season. White-tailed jackrabbits have good eyesight, excellent hearing, and sensitive whiskers. They are very careful and try to evade detection by crouching in the vegetation where their cryptic coloration makes them difficult to observe. They may slink away, but if detected, they bound away at speed, adopting a zigzag course. They can run up to 55 km/hr (34 mi/hr) and leap up to 5 m (16 ft). Whitetails generally make no sound but will emit a shrill scream if they are injured or caught.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

White-tailed jackrabbits are herbivores (graminivores, folivores). They feed on grasses and other green plants, including cultivated crops. During the winter their diet includes buds, twigs, and bark of low shrubs.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
February-July
PREGNANCY DURATION
42 days
BABY CARRYING
1-11 young
INDEPENDENT AGE
4 weeks
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
leveret

White-tailed jackrabbits are polygynandrous (promiscuous), meaning that both the males and females mate with multiple partners. Their breeding season is variable and depends upon latitude and environmental factors; it extends from February to July in different parts of the range. Several males may compete aggressively for the attention of a female by charging at each other, leaping, and jostling. The gestation period is about 42 days and in preparation for the birth, the female prepares a fur-lined nest under dense vegetation. A litter consists of up to 11 young, although 4-5 is a more typical number. The leverets weigh about 100 g (3.5 oz). They have their eyes open and are fully furred at birth and soon begin to move around. They start to forage around 2 weeks old and are weaned at 4 weeks. They become reproductively mature around 7 months old but do not breed until the year after their birth.

Population

Population threats

White-tailed jackrabbits are fairly common across most of their range, however, the population size may be declining slightly mainly due to habitat loss. Whitetails are also often killed because they are considered agricultural or garden pests. In parks and gardens, people often come across bunnies alone during the day in spring and mistakenly assume they are abandoned by their mothers and try to adopt them or bring them into animal shelters.

Population number

According to IUCN, the White-tailed jackrabbit is 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 but its numbers today is decreasing.

Ecological niche

White-tailed jackrabbits play an important role in their ecosystem. They influence the composition of the turf through their selective grazing activities and they are also important prey species for various mammalian predators such as red and grey foxes, American badgers, coyotes, and bobcats.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The White-tailed jackrabbit is the largest species called "jackrabbit".
  • White-tailed jackrabbits are not rabbits, but true hares. Hares are similar in size and form to rabbits and have similar herbivorous diets, but generally have longer ears and live singly or in pairs. Also unlike rabbits, their young are able to fend for themselves shortly after birth rather than emerging blind and helpless. Most hares are also fast runners.
  • White-tailed jackrabbits are good swimmers and won't hesitate to use this ability when they need to escape predators.
  • When captured White-tailed jackrabbits kick the predator with their powerful hind legs.
  • Bugs Bunny, a famous Disney hero was a jackrabbit!

References

1. White-Tailed Jackrabbit on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_jackrabbit
2. White-Tailed Jackrabbit on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41288/45189364

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About