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The black-tailed jackrabbit is actually a hare, not a rabbit. It is distinguished by its huge, oversized ears, which allow it to hear the faintest sounds and stay cool during the day. The jackrabbit lives in semidesert and prairie regions. Its brown fur gives it effective camouflage against the sparse, dry vegetation. If it is spotted by predators, however, it can run faster than a racehorse and will leap over rocks and bushes in an attempt to evade capture.
Habits: The nocturnal jackrabbit is well adapted to life in the hot desert and prairie regions of North America. It lives in open spaces among the thin desert ground cover of plants such as the sagebrush and cactus. Most of the time, the jackrabbit is solitary. Like all hares, it lives above ground. During the cool of the evening, the jackrabbit emerges from its resting place to feed under the cover of darkness. Its large ears funnel sound and enable it to hear signs of danger. Good hearing is essential to the survival of the jackrabbit, which is prey to wolves, coyotes, and pumas. In addition to its excellent hearing, the jackrabbit also has sharp eyesight. Like other hares, it will sit upright on its haunches so it can better view its surroundings.
Breeding: Jackrabbits normally breed 9 months out of the year. At the beginning of the breeding season, males box each other with their forefeet and chase the females, often kicking and biting them. Young jackrabbits are born 6 weeks after mating in a concealed site above ground. The young have furry coats and their eyes are open. Soon, the mother separates them into individual hiding places. The young remain in their hiding places until their mother comes to suckle them. Eventually, they begin eating small amounts of vegetation in addition to their mother’s milk. When the young are weaned after 3 weeks, the female mates again and produces another litter. The young are sexually mature within a year. In early spring, jackrabbits come together to breed. Males fight each other for access to females. The female places her young in separate hiding places to prevent a predator from taking them all.
Food and Feeding: Jackrabbits leave their resting places at dusk to feed. Occasionally, they raid crops and cause extensive damage. When food is extremely scarce, they will survive by gnawing the bark of trees. The animals feed for short periods, stopping in between to rest. Long, chisel-like incisor teeth bite the stems of grass and herbs, which are then chewed and shredded by flattened molars.
Length: 24 in., head to tail. Ears, 8 in. long
Weight: Around 11 lb. Females are slightly heavier
Sexual maturity: 8 months
Breeding season: January-September. Spring is peak time
Gestation: 41-47 days
No. of young: Up to 6. Females may have 3-4 litters a year.
Habit: Nocturnal, solitary except in breeding season
Diet: Grasses, herbs, succulents, woody twigs, and bark
Lifespan: 1-5 years in the wild
Related Species: There are 21 species of
jackrabbit and hare in the United States. The white-tailed jackrabbit lives
in the Northwest.
Distribution: Western and central United States, northern Mexico.
Conservation: As the most common of North American hare species, the black-tailed jackrabbit breeds quickly and successfully. It is considered a pest because of the damage it does to crops, and it is a popular target for game hunters as well.
How the Jackrabbit Keeps Cool: Living above ground in semidesert, the jackrabbit avoids overheating in the scorching sun by scraping out shallow, shaded holes, called forms, to lie in. Sometimes the animal will simply stretch out with its legs and body extended so the maximum surface area of its body is touching the cooler ground. The jackrabbit’s ears enable it to control its body temperature. The network of blood vessels, spread over the large surface area, gets rid of excess heat.
Special Adaptation: The jackrabbit’s eyes are situated on the sides of its head, giving it all around vision which enables it to spot danger coming from any direction. Its fur is brown with black tips, which provides an effective camouflage against brush. When asleep during the day, the jackrabbit blends into the desert scenery unnoticed. Its long back legs allow it to run at high speeds to escape from danger.
Did You Know:
Jackrabbits living in the desert rarely drink water. They obtain all the moisture they need from water-retaining plants such as cacti.
Jackrabbits can reach a speed of 50 miles per hour and can leap as high as 5 feet.
The undersides of a jackrabbit’s feet are covered with long, brushlike hairs, which provide both a grip and a soft cushion on hard surfaces.
A female jackrabbit usually suckles her young once a day, spending no longer than 5-10 minutes with them.