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Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Leporidae / Lepus / Species

Lepus townsendii - White-tailed jackrabbit (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details) 

White-tailed jackrabbit 

INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Prairie hare. (B430.w2)
  • White-tailed jack rabbit. (B147)
  • Lepus campestris. (B430.w2)
  • Lepus sierrae. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus townsendii campanius. (B430.w2, B605.4.w4, B607.w20)
  • Lepus townsendii campestris. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus townsendii townsendii. (B605.4.w4, B430.w2)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

  • Leveret (B285.w5b)

Names for males

Names for females

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General Appearance

Adult: 

General Information

  • Jackrabbits are big, slender-bodied Lepus species with long ears. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Lepus townsendii is greyish brown (Lepus townsendii townsendii or yellowish (Lepus townsendii campanius) dorsally (white in winter in northern areas and high altitudes) with a pale grey or white underside, black ear tips and a white tail which may have a slender buffy or dusky dorsal stripe; when present this stripe does not extend up the back(J469.288.w1)

Newborn:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Neonates are fully furred, with open eyes. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)

Similar Species

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

Sexual Dimorphism

  • Females are slightly larger than males: e.g. 1% larger in external measurements in nevada, 3.2% longer in California. (J469.288.w1)

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Author: Kathryn Pintus BSc MSc MSc (V.w115); Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

LENGTH
Adult:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Males of this species are usually slightly smaller than the females. (B430.w2)
  • Male: Average length of 589 mm (range: 565-618 mm). (B430.w2)
    • Idaho/Nevada: 565 - 618 mm, mean 589.4 mm. (J469.288.w1)
  • Female: Average length of 612 mm (range: 575-655 mm). (B430.w2)
    • Idaho/Nevada: 575 - 655, mean 612.4 mm. (J469.288.w1)

Newborns: --

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • South Colorado:
    • Male: 2.75 kg. (B605.4.w4)
    • Female: 3.32 kg. (B605.4.w4)
  • Iowa:
    • Male: 3.4 kg. (B605.4.w4)
    • Female: 3.59 kg. (B605.4.w4)
  • Idaho/Nevada: 
    • Male: 2,945 and 2,494 g. (J469.288.w1)
    • Female: 2,635 - 3,440 g, mean 3,070 g. (J469.288.w1)
  • Winter weight, Iowa:

    • Male: 3,400 g (range: 2,600-4,300 g). (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)
    • Female: 3,600 g (range: 2,500-4,300 g). (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)
  • Spring weight, Iowa:
    • Male: 2,800 - 3,500 g, mean 3,100 g. (J469.288.w1)
    • Female: 2,800 - 4,400 g, mean 3,800 g.(J469.288.w1)

Newborns:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Newborns of this species usually weigh about 90 g. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)
  • Average: 87 g; Range: 84-90 g. (Sample size = 2; both were young). (B287)
  • Average: 89.25 g; Range: 84-93 g. (Sample size = 4; terminal embryos). (B287)
  • Average: 105.33 g; Range: 101-110 g. (Sample size = 3; one day old). (B287)

GROWTH RATE

Specific Lepus townsendii Information 

  • Weaning mass: 737 g (at approximately 4 weeks). (B287)

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Head and Neck

Notes

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs have large ears relative to their body size. (B285.w5a)
  • Almost all Lepus species have long ears. (B147)

Newborn: --

DENTITION:
Adult:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares have a total of 28 teeth. (B285.w5a)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)
  • Lagomorphs differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a straight cutting edge. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Young are born with their incisors erupted. (B430.w2)

EYES:
Adult:

General Information

  • Lagomorph eyes are positioned such that they allow for good broad-field vision. (B285.w5a)
  • Hares and rabbits have large eyes which are adapted to both their crepuscular and nocturnal activity patterns. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporids have "large eyes to increase visual acuity in dim light." (B430.w2)

Newborn:

General Information

  • Neonates are born with open eyes. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General Information
  • All hares have well-furred feet. (B147)
  • Almost all Lepus species have large hind feet. (B147)

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Tail

Notes

General Lepus Information:

  • Leporids have a short tail. (B147)
  • 35-100 mm. (B147)
  • Average: 58 mm. (B430.w2)
  • Range: 48-76 mm. (B430.w2)
  • 3.5-12 cm. (B285.w5c)
Specific Lepus townsendii Information
  • Male: 85 mm (range: 72-102 mm). (B430.w2)
  • Female: 85 mm (range: 66-100 mm). (B430.w2)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Adult:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • This species has greyish-brown upperparts and white underparts. The tail is also white, though has a dusky or buff stripe on the top. (B605.4.w4)
  • White tail. This sometimes has a dusky dorsal stripe. (B430.w2)
  • "The summer pelage of the white-tailed jackrabbit is yellowish to grayish-brown on the upperparts and white or pale gray on the underparts. The throat is darker." (B430.w2)
  • The tail remains white throughout the year, though some may have a buffy dorsal stripe. (B430.w2)
  • The ears tips remain black throughout the year. (B430.w2)

Adult Colour variations:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Summer moult: in southwest Colorado, April to May; in Iowa, March to early April. (J469.288.w1)
  • Winter moult: in southwest Colorado, October to November; in Iowa, November to early December. (J469.288.w1)
  • In most areas of its range, this species turns completely white in the winter, though the ear tips remain black. However, on the plains of British Columbia, Kansas, Nebraska and some regions of Colorado, the winter coats are only slightly paler than their summer coats. (B605.4.w4)
    • Sometimes in the southern regions the sides of the body and rump may go white while the back becomes pale buffy-grey in winter. (J469.288.w1)
    • "In the northern of mountainous parts of its range, there is a winter molt to a thick white pelage with tinges of buff. In southern localities or at lower elevations, there may be no color change or only a partial change." (B430.w2)
    • "The molt to summer pelage begins around the eyes and rump and then spreads around the head, flanks, and back. The winter molt reverses the process." (B430.w2)
    • "A polytypic winter coat has been observed in this species from the Cochetopa area of Colorado and it is thought that incomplete dominance of two or more allelles, or pairs of genes are involved." (J469.288.w1)
  • Following the moult the underfur remains iron grey or reddish-brown. (B605.4.w4)
  • There are no colour differences between males and females. (J469.288.w1)

Newborn / Juvenile:

General Information

  • Lepus spp. leverets are furred at birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Neonates are fully furred. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)
  • The juvenile pelage is similar to that of the adults, though is duller. Juveniles have fewer and finer guard hairs, thus more underfur shows through. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

Skull

General Information

  • Leporids have an arched skull with a slight constriction between the orbits. (B147)
  • Lepus species have a skull that is lighter than the skull of rabbit species. (B605.4.w4)
Female reproductive tract

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Usually four pairs of mammae, with one pectoral, two abdominal and one inguinal. (J469.288.w1)
Male reproductive tract

General Information

  • Males lack a baculum (B147)
  • Testes are in the scrotum located in front of the penis (B147)
Digestive system

General Information

  • The largest part of the digestive tract is the caecum; this has a capacity up to ten times that of the stomach. (B147)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

BREEDING SEASON:

General Information

  • The majority of Lepus species have a long breeding season. (B147)
  • Southern Lepus species breed throughout the year. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • North Dakota: the breeding season occurs between late February and mid-July, lasting as long as 148 days. (B605.4.w4, J469.288.w1)
  • Breeding time depends upon elevation and latitude. (B430.w2)
  • Breeding may begin in February. (B430.w2)
  • Iowa, USA: Reproduction occurs from February to early-July, possibly longer. (B287)
  • Breeding synchronicity in Lepus townsendii campianus; this is indicated by females collected in a given week having fetuses at the same stage of development. (J469.288.w1)
  • Breeding behavioour has been observed March through to August. (J469.288.w1)
OESTRUS / OVULATION:

General Information

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • In many populations there is a postpartum oestrus. (B430.w2)
  • Postpartum oestrus in Lepus townsendii campanius; this helps maintain breeding synchrony. (J469.288.w1)
GESTATION / PREGNANCY:

General Information

  • Under adverse conditions (such as during climatic or social stress), female lagomorphs are able to resorb embryos. (B285.w5a)
  • It is thought that some lagomorph species are able to conceive a second litter even before the last young is born; this is known as superfetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Gestation for Lepus species varies, but can be up to 50 days. (B147,B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Gestation is between 30 and 43 days. (B430.w2)
  • Gestation is between one month and 43 days. (B287)
  • Variably reported as one month, 42 days and 36 - 43 days. (J469.288.w1)
    • Gestation length may be affected by latitude and elevation. (J469.288.w1)
  • The time of year in which pregnant females are found varies depending on the region:
    • Wyoming, USA: end of February to July.
    • Utah, USA: March to July.
    • South Dakota, USA: May.
    • Colorado, USA: May to August.
    • North Dakota, USA: June.
    • Montana, USA: July.
    • Nevraska, USA: July-August.
PARTURITION / BIRTH:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial and are born into surface-depression forms. (B285.w5b)
  • Females give birth to their young in open areas, or in a shallow depression in the ground. (B147)
  • Leverets remain hidden within dense vegetation, and the female visits them in order to nurse them. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • New Mexico, USA: females known to give birth between May and August. (B287)
Neonatal / Development:

General Information

  • Leverets are precocial; they are born fully furred, with open eyes, and are able to move about soon after birth. (B147, B285.w5b, B287)
  • Young are only suckled briefly once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • Approximately three days after birth, leverets disperse to separate hiding locations. Leveret litter-mates will regroup for a brief suckling bout at a particular location at precisely defined intervals. Such regrouping often takes place around sunset. (B285.w5b)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Young are born with their eyes open, with fur, and with their incisors erupted. (B430.w2)
  • Within half an hour of being born, the young have some mobility. (B430.w2)
  • "Young begin foraging at approximately 2 weeks of age, are fully weaned by 1 month, and are independent after about 2 months." (B430.w2)
  • Weaning mass: 737 g (at approximately 4 weeks). (B287)
LITTER SIZE:

General Information

  • The size of litters produced by leporids at northern latitudes tends to be greater than those produced by leporids at southern latitudes. (B430.w2)
  • Litter sizes in Lepus species range from one to nine offspring. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Average: 4.6 young per litter. (B605.4.w4)
  • Range: 1-9. (B605.4.w4)
  • Iowa: 3.6 young per litter on average. (B605.4.w4)
  • Litter size may range from one to 11 young. However, litters usually only contain 4 or 5 young. (B430.w2)
  • One to 11, average 4 - 5. (J469.288.w1)
TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR:

General Information

  • The inter-birth interval in lagomorphs is reduced by the phenomenon of induced ovulation, and post-partum oestrus, which allows females to conceive immediately after she has given birth. (B285.w5a)
  • A female can produce up to three or four litters per year. (B430.w2)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Females produce an average of 3.3 litters per year. (B605.4.w4)
  • Iowa: reports of two to three or four litters per year. (B605.4.w4)
  • One to four litter are produced per female per year. (B430.w2)
  • Females produce between two and four litters per year. (B287)
  • This species produces between one and eleven young per year. (B287)
  • Generally produces between three and six young per year. (B287)
  • Maximum four litters per year, produced late April, early June, mid July and late August/early September. In the northern part of the range only one litter per year, produced late May to early July. (J469.288.w1)
LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION:

General Information

  • Leporids only release milk once in every 24 hour period. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporid milk has a very high fat and protein content, and as such is highly nutritious. Although the lactation period is brief, the milk is pumped into the young at a high speed.(B285.w5b)
  • The lactation period has a duration of between 17 and 23 days. (B285.w5b)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • On solid food at 15 days of age. (B287)
  • Southeastern Montana, USA: Lactation known to occur in May. (B287)

SEXUAL MATURITY:

General Information

  • Most species of lagomorph reach sexual maturity relatively early. (B285.w5a)
  • Lepus young do not usually breed in their first year of life. (B147)
SEXUAL MATURITY:

General Information

  • Most species of lagomorph reach sexual maturity relatively early. (B285.w5a)
  • Lepus young do not usually breed in their first year of life. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • First mates at about one year of age. (B287)
  • No evidence for breeding as juveniles. (J469.288.w1)
MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

General Information

  • Testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season, descending into the scrotum during the breeding season. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Testes:
    • North Dakota, USA: Testes are large from February to June. (B287)
  • Lepus townsendii campanius: testes increase dramatically in mass in February, while there is a considerable increase in epididymal mass, turgidity of the testes and sperm in the epididymis in March. The testes descend into the scrotal sac shortly before the peaks in sexual chasing. Breeding capability ends in late July. (J469.288.w1)
LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares in the wild live for less than a year on average; a maximum age of 12 years has been recorded in a couple of species. (B285.w5b)
  • "Only a minority of hares survive their first year in the wild, though survivors can reach 5 years; in captivity, hares can live to 6 or 7 years." (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • In the wild, this species is thought to live for a maximum of 8 years. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET:

General Lepus Information

  • Hares mainly eat grasses and herbaceous plants, but do also feed on twigs, buds and bark. (B147)

  • Isolated cases have been reported of hares capturing and eating voles and young lagomorphs. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Colorado:

    • Summer: 70% forbs, 19% grass and 7% shrubs. (B605.4.w4)

    • Winter: 76% shrubs and 12% forbs. (B605.4.w4)

    • As many as 67 plant species eaten. (J469.288.w1)

  • North Dakota:

    • Spring: this species congregates on wheat. (B605.4.w4)

    • Summer: this species congregates on alfalfa. (B605.4.w4)

  • This is a herbivorous species, and feeds upon succulent grasses and forbs when these are present. In the drier winter months, it tends to feed upon shrubs. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)

  • Young usually feed on grasses. (B430.w2)

  • In sympatry with Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit, the White-tailed jackrabbit appears to be more selective over the plant species it consumes. (B430.w2)

QUANTITY EATEN:

  • Average 0.42 kg of alfalfa hay and rolled barley eaten per day, more after parturition (captive data). (J469.288.w1)

STUDY METHODS:

  • Examination of stomach contents. (J469.288.w1)

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

--

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY:--

BIOCHEMISTRY:--

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in WILDPro)

Notes

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE):

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Basal metabolic rate estimated at 53.14 kilocaleries per kg body mass per day. (J469.288.w1)

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY):

General Information

  • Lagomorphs have digestive systems which are adapted for processing large quantities of vegetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of fecal material: moist pellets (caecotrophs) and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy (B285.w5a)); this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Produce about 277 faecal pellets per day (range 146 - 440), average dry weight 24 g (captive data). (J469.288.w1)
  • Reingest the soft faecal pellets (caecotrophs) whole; these can be found whole in the stomach. (J469.288.w1)

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE):--

CHROMOSOMES: 

  • All the Lepus species have 48 chromosomes. (B605.4.w4)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: --

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

General Information

  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chins and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Whereas pikas tend to be more vocal, rabbits and hares rely strongly on scent rather than sound as a means of communication. (B285.w5b)
  • High-pitched distress squeals are emitted by leporids when captured by a predator. (B285.w5b, B430.w2)
  • The North American leporids have large ears with highly-developed hearing, an adaptation which allows them to detect predators when foraging in open habitats. (B430.w2)
  • Hares communicate with each other by drumming their feet. (B147)
  • Deep grumbling has been reported in Lepus species, and shrill calls are emitted when the animal is in pain. (B285.w5c)
  • "When seeking the young for nursing, females call the young and are answered." (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Young may give shrill cries when distressed or frightened. (J469.288.w1)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of faecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten; this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Hares may congregate on feeding grounds. (B605.4.w4)
  • A report was made in Alberta of a group of between 30 and 150 individuals feeding on a patch of alfalfa measuring 300 m by 400 m. The hares did not appear to interact with one another. (B605.4.w4)
  • Females, whether pregnant or lactating, generally feed alone, while males are often in groups of two to five individuals. (J469.288.w1)
  • Feed mainly sunset to sunrise, rarely during daylight hours. (J469.288.w1)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • Male leporids are not generally involved in care of the young. However, if adult females attack young leporids, males will intervene, a behaviour known as 'policing'. (B285.w5b)
  • Even maternal care of the young is not particularly prominent in leporids, hence this reproductive strategy is known as 'absentee parentism'. (B285.w5a)
  • Leporids demonstrate an unusual system of nursing; the young are suckled only briefly (often less than five minutes) just once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • It is thought that the lack of social contact between the mother and her young is a strategy which diminishes the chances of attracting the attention of predators. (B285.w5b)
  • The entrances to breeding tunnels are carefully re-sealed following each bout of suckling (B285.w5b)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Females construct a nest in bushes or other vegetation, made from dry leaves and grasses with a good lining of fur. (J469.288.w1)
  • In Wisconsin, young were apparently born in a form or on bare ground, without a nest. (J469.288.w1)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Mainly a solitary species. May occasionally form temporary aggregations, and during the breeding season may form small groups. (B430.w2)
  • One of the least sociable hare species. (B430.w2)
  • Hares may congregate on feeding grounds. (B605.4.w4)
    • As many as 50 and 110 individuals have been observed on feeding grounds. (J469.288.w1)
  • In areas where many individuals hares come together to feed on relatively small areas, the hares do not appear to interact with one another. (B605.4.w4)
  • Males often feed in groups of 2 - 5 individuals, while females are usually solitary. (J469.288.w1)

PREDATION: 

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

PREDATOR AVOIDANCE:

General Information

  • Hares will run out into open areas and use their speed in order to avoid predators. (B285.w5b, B605.4.w4)
  • Speeds of up to 72 km/h (45 mph) have been reported for hares. (B285.w5b)
  • "Instead of seeking cover, hares rely on their well-developed running ability to escape from danger: also on camouflage, by flattening on vegetation." (B285.w5c)
  • Jackrabbits can avoid predators by crouching against the ground in any available cover. (B147)
  • Jackrabbits can avoid predators by crouching against the ground in any available cover. (B147)
    • Jackrabbits remain well hidden when crouching down in dense cover, but are often highly conspicuous when sitting up being vigilant or when running. (B147)
  • Jackrabbits are capable of running for greater distances than true rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.) (B147)

POPULATION DENSITIES:

General Information

  • Drastic, cyclic population density fluctuations occur in northern Lepus species. (B147)
  • Predator population cycles follow Lepus cycles; once predator populations have crashed, and vegetation has had the chance to regeneration, hare population numbers are able to start increasing once more. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Autumn densities of this species in northwestern have been reported to be between 12 and 102 individuals per square kilometre. (B147)
  • Southern Arizona: 124 individuals/sq km. (B147)
  • California: 270 individuals/sq km. (B147)
  • Iowa: Average density has been reported to be 5-15 individuals per square kilometre, though densities may be as high as between 90 and 114 individuals per square kilometre. (B605.4.w4)
  • Iowa: 3 - 9 per square kilometre, and reaching as high as 71. (J469.288.w1)
  • Minnesota: 6 - 12 per square kilometre; high of 43. (J469.288.w1)
  • Northeastern Colorado shortgrass prairie, 2.2 per square kilometre in winter. (J469.288.w1)
  • A report was made from Alberta of a group of between 30 and 150 individuals feeding on a patch of alfalfa measuring 300 m by 400 m. This group remained there for ten days. (B605.4.w4)

HOME RANGES AND DISTANCES TRAVELLED:

General Lepus Information

  • "Habitat type has a marked effect on home-range size within each species, but differences also occur between species." (B285.w5c)
  • Lepus species vary greatly in their home range sizes, with some species having home ranges of only 4-20 hectares, and others exceeding 300 hectares. (B285.w5c)
  • Areas within a couple of metres of forms may be defended, but home ranges often overlap, often with common feeding grounds. (B285.w5c)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Home ranges for this species are believed to be quite small. One report states a home range of ten hectares. However, "...movements of one to two miles occur between cover and feeding grounds, and hares may have to migrate considerable distances in winter to avoid hard snow cover." (B605.4.w4)
  • Reported as 1 - 3 km diameter; little information available. (J469.288.w1)

TERRITORIALITY:

General Information

  • The majority of hares and rabbits are non-territorial; some hares occupy home ranges of up to 300 ha (740 acres). ranges of individuals may overlap in favoured feeding grounds. (B285.w5b)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chins and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • Male Lepus become bolder during the mating season, and engage in fights with other males, and pursue females. (B147)
  • Male Lepus fight by using boxing motions with their forefeet and kicking with their hind feet. (B147)
  • Males often bite and kick the females, often leading to serious injury. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Polygamous. (J469.288.w1)
  • "Courtship behavior is similar to that of the black-tailed jackrabbit [Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit], except that the jumping behavior is more pronounced." (B605.4.w4)
  • Groups of three to five males may chase one female, usually in the evening. (J469.288.w1)
  • Series of circling, jumping and chasing, lasting 5 - 20 minues, usually ending with copulation. (J469.288.w1)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS: 

  • All the lagomorphs are terrestrial. (B147)
  • When bounding away from a predator, use a "halting, one-sided lope with frequent glances over the shoulder." Also use a zigzag pattern when fleeing. Sometimes enter water when pursued, and swim by paddling with the forefeet. (J469.288.w1)
  • This jackrabbit finds it difficult to run in snow more than 25 cm deep. (J469.288.w1)

SELF-GROOMING:

  • Between sunset and sunrise this species spends the majority of its time grooming and feeding. (B430.w2)
  • After feeding, they groom - licking the body and grooming the head and ears with their forepaws. (J469.288.w1)

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

General Information

  • Hares and rabbits are generally at their most active at dusk or at night. (B430.w2)
  • Hares are, on the whole, nocturnal species, although some are known to be more active at twilight, and others are most active during the cooler parts of the day. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Nocturnal. (B430.w2, B605.4.w4, J469.288.w1)
  • This species rests in forms during the day, and begins to feed between 15:00 and 16:00. Peak activity is reported to occur between 22:00 and 01:00 hrs. In the summer, the majority of activity ceased by between 03:00 and 04:00 hrs. (B605.4.w4)
  • Feed mainly sunset to sunrise; they rarely feed during daylight; lactating females may feed earlier in the evening and later in the morning than other individuals. (J469.288.w1)
  • Young under 1 kg in bodyweight rarely move or feed in daytime; they sleep during the day and groom each other at night. (J469.288.w1)
  • In winter, rest in the day in cavities dug in snow. (J469.288.w1)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT:

General Information

  • The North American leporids are able to escape predators by taking instant flight at high speed. (B430.w2)
  • Leporids can run at speeds of up to 80 km/hr. (B147)
  • Jack rabbits " run rapidly and for greater distances than the true rabbits (Sylvilagus) that occupy much the same range. Unlike the latter, jack rabbits make rather long, high leaps." (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Speeds of up to 55 km per hour estimated; a single stride may cover 5 m. (J469.288.w1)

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

General Information
  • Hares have a widespread distribution, and are found in a multitude of habitat types including desert (B285.w5b, B430.w2), grasslands and tundra (B285.w5b, B430.w2), whereas rabbits are generally found only in areas of dense cover. (B285.w5b)
  • Found in steppe and desert habitats. (B51)
  • Most Lepus species live in open grassy habitats. (B147, B285.w5c)
  • Jackrabbits tend to be found in areas of sparse vegetation. (B147)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Found in grassland and steppe habitats. (B51)
  • Prefers open grassland. Will make use of sagebrush and meadowland, but less frequently. (B430.w2)
  • Open prairie and plains. (B605.4.w4)
  • "...populations extend into the badlands of Dakota and on to montane pastures among scattered evergreens to 3,100m altitude in Colorado." (B605.4.w4)
  • Iowa: highest densities are found on recently glaciated soils. Fewer animals are seen in the west. (B605.4.w4)
  • Southern Colorado: A study rated the most favoured habitats from grassland, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, to meadow. Meadows were more frequently used in autumn after the harvest. In the winter, this species takes cover in shrubs, and travels along open ridges. (B605.4.w4)
  • Use forested areas for shelter when winter weather is severe, but otherwise prefer open plains. (J469.288.w1)
  • "Early authors maintained that white-tailed jackrabbits adjusted well to agricultural development, but decline of numbers now seems general." (B605.4.w4)
  • Where sympatric with Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit, use different habitats: (J469.288.w1)
    • In Oregon, open flats and ryegrass fields, rather than sagebrush used by Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit. (J469.288.w1)
    • In Washington, bunchgrass and rabbitgrass rather than sagebrush. (J469.288.w1)
    • "In mountainous habitats, white-tailed jackrabbits predominate on the slopes and ridges and black-tailed jackrabbits are more common on the valley floors." (B430.w2)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

General Information
  • Hares tend to reside in caves or crevices in rocks. (B430.w2)
  • Lepus species do not usually dig burrows or live in them, favouring fleeing rather than hiding as a mode of escape. (B147)
  • The majority of hares rest underneath vegetation, generally lying within shallow dips in the ground (soil, snow or grass) known as 'forms'. (B147)
  • The majority of Lepus species live on the surface, but some do dig burrows or use tunnels and holes made by other animals. (B285.w5c)
  • Uses 'shelter forms' (small depressions within the ground or vegetation) to rest in during the day. Or may simply rest next to a plant. (B430.w2)

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Rest in forms during the day. (B430.w2, B605.4.w4, J469.288.w1)
  • Forms are usually dug near to rocks or bushes. (B430.w2, J469.288.w1)
  • "Where there is persistent snow cover, cavities with connecting tunnels may be dug into the snow." (B430.w2)
  • Nests which have been dug for young are lined with dry leaves, grasses and with the mother's hair. Nests for young are not always made. (B430.w2)
  • "In winter they burrow for shelter into snow drifts and use shrubs and trees for cover." (B605.4.w4)
  • In winter, rest in cavities connected by tunnels dug about 1 metre into snow. (J469.288.w1)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Lepus townsendii Information
  • Found in central and western USA. (B51)
  • "...south-central British Columbia and east-central California to central Manitoba and northern Missouri." (B147)
  • "S British Columbia, S Alberta, SW Ontario, SW Wisconsin, Kansas, N New Mexico, Nevada, E California." (B285.w5c)
  • "C Alberta and Saskatchewan east to extreme SW Ontario (Canada), south to SW Wisconsin, Iowa, NW Missouri, west through C Kansas to NC New Mexico, west to C Nevada, EC California (USA) and north to SC British Columbia (Canada)." (B607.w20)
  • "It now occurs from mid Saskatchewan and Alberta to the north of Arizona, and from inland Washington and California to Lake Superior." (B605.4.w4)
  • Historically, the distribution of this species spread as far east as Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri in areas of cleared forest. However, when its prairie habitat became more and more cultivated, the range of the species declined, and it became extinct from Kansas and southern Nebraska. (B605.4.w4)
  • "The white-tailed jackrabbit is distributed in west-central North America from the prairies of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta to the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico, and from Lake Michigan in Wisconsin to east of the Cascade Mountains of Washington and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California." (B430.w2)
  • A few populations of White-tailed jackrabbits are present in Wisconsin. (B430.w2)
  • This species is thought to have the widest range of any hare species in terms of elevation; it is found from 40 m to 4,300 m above sea level. (B430.w2)
  • "...hares may have to migrate considerable distances in winter to avoid hard snow cover." (B605.4.w4)

Geographic Sympatry

  • Due to the creation of suitable habitats for this species, it has been extending its range eastwards and northwards. Yet its range has been reduced in the southeast due to the changes in habitat which have left the area more suitable for the sympatric Lepus californicus - Black-tailed jackrabbit. (B430.w2)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Lepus townsendii Information
  • "The species is well differentiated and there are no taxonomic problems of identification." (B605.4.w4)
Currently recognised subspecies include:
  • Lepus townsendii townsendii  
    • Includes Lepus townsendii sierrae. (B607.w20)
  • Lepus townsendii campanius - found east of the Continental Divide.
    • Includes Lepus townsendii campestris (B607.w20)
  • Lepus townsendii townsendii - found west of the Continental Divide.

(B430.w2, B607.w20)

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • Locally common. (B285.w5c, B430.w2)
  • Widespread species. (B605.4.w4)
  • Thriving over most of central and western USA. (B605.4.w4)

GENERAL LEGISLATION: --

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • IUCN - Lower Risk (least concern). (W2.Apr08.w33)

THREATS:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • "Early authors maintained that white-tailed jackrabbits adjusted well to agricultural development, but decline of numbers now seems general." (B605.4.w4)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information 

  • Often regarded as agricultural pests, particularly of alfalfa, corn, soybeans and winter wheat. (B605.4.w4)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE:

Specific Lepus townsendii Information

  • This species is hunted for sport. (B605.4.w4)
  • This species is sold to mink ranchers and fur buyers. (B605.4.w4)

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