Jackrabbits are members of the hare family. They have very long ears and long back legs, live in open areas as opposed to burrows, are born with their eyes open and with hair and are capable of running and hopping very soon after birth. They can jump as far as 20 feet. Jackrabbits are vegetarians. Many animals prey on jackrabbits.
Types of Jackrabbits
There are three main types of jackrabbits. The black-tailed jackrabbit, also known as the desert hare, is found in the western U.S. and Mexico, and is a mainly solitary animal. The white-tailed jackrabbit is found in Canada, parts of the Midwestern U.S., the Rocky Mountains and California. The antelope jackrabbit is found in the Southwestern U.S., mainly in Arizona, and eats grass, mesquite and cacti.
The Jackrabbit's Defenses Against Predators
The jackrabbit's main defense to predators is its extreme speed (up to 40 mph), excellent hearing and sense of smell, and the zig-zag running pattern it uses when escaping. Jackrabbits have fur in colors and patterns that provide effective camouflage. They can also thump with their hind legs on the ground to signal to other jackrabbits that predators are nearby. Their frequent litters, up to six in a year, also serve as a type of defense against losing too many of their kind to predators.
Bird and Mammalian Predators
Desert birds prey on jackrabbits. Red-tailed hawks, eagles, great horned owls and barn owls are among the winged predators of jackrabbits. Hawks will pounce on jackrabbits from low-level flights, while owls wait until nightfall and swoop down on jackrabbits from a high perch. Mammalian predators such as coyotes, foxes and weasels also hunt and kill jackrabbits. Coyotes will run down jackrabbits in open ground. Similarly, foxes will make sudden swift rushes in the open and pounce on jackrabbits.
Cats, Snakes and Mankind
Other predators that kill and eat jackrabbits include bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and gopher snakes. And finally, mankind has also traditionally killed jackrabbits for meat, for fur, for sport and for pest control. White-tailed jackrabbits were eaten by early settlers, and their fur traded. They are still considered game animals. Black-tailed jackrabbits and antelope jackrabbits are commonly hunted for sport or killed as pests for crop-control purposes. Due to their carrying disease and parasites, jackrabbits are not commonly eaten in modern times.