Pepperwood’s Conservation Science Internship, a partnership with the statewide Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program, engages Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) students in critical wildlife camera research as they assist in evaluating and cataloging data from motion-activated cameras. Get to know our past and present interns through this series of interviews and articles.
Truth or Hare
By Clarissa Chambers
Spring 2017 SRJC Conservation Science Intern
Lepus californicus, or as known to the amateur scientist as the black-tailed jackrabbit, despite its name is actually classified as a hare. Hares are generally longer and have longer hind legs, as well as longer ears, than rabbits. One major difference, that I find interesting, is a rabbit’s coat stays the same color throughout the year whereas a hares coat changes from a grayish brown, in the summertime, to white during the winter.
Black-tailed jackrabbits inhabit American deserts, scrublands, and other locales, including Pepperwood. These creatures are primarily herbivores and consume broadleaved plants, berries, fungi, and roots. Being a desert species, Lepus californicus also eats sagebrush and cacti. It may seem that this hare is saving up food for the winter, but actually, this species of hare does not hibernate or store large amounts of food for the winter. They normally switch from herbs in the summer to grass in the winter—they need to eat all year round. That is why the coat changes colors, to camouflage itself from predators as it eats.
Black-tailed jackrabbits definitely need a lot of food, especially to nourish their young. Female jackrabbits can give birth to several litters a year, each with one to six young. The young mature quickly and require little maternal care. This is because, unlike rabbits, newborn hares are fully developed at birth—furred with open eyes. The booming jackrabbit population can cause problems for farmers. At Pepperwood these mammals become a delicious morsel for some of the large mammals on the preserve such as mountain lions and coyotes. Oh my!
I have enjoyed seeing Lepus californicus as my fellow interns and I drive up to Rogers Canyon and Martins Creek. Sometimes we would hear a noise coming from off the path, thinking that maybe it was deer or a coyote, and be pleasantly surprised when it was a little black-tailed jackrabbit. After noticing that we were some interns, the jackrabbit would run away fearing that one of us might consider acquiring a new pet or making it the main topic of an intern’s blog.
Here are some black-tailed jackrabbit stats and fun facts!
- Life Span: 1-5 years
- Weight: 3-9lbs
- Length: 2ft
- Jackrabbits were originally called jackass rabbits, for their long, donkey like ears
- These speedy hares are capable of running up to 40 miles per hour
- The black-tailed jackrabbit should join track and become a long jumper—they have powerful hind legs that allow them to propel more than 10 feet on leaps
- To evade their predators, including coyotes which are found at Pepperwood, jackrabbits leap and run in a zigzag style
- The young of jackrabbits are called leverets, also known as bunnies
- These fuzzy, or “HARE”-y, creatures on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List are labeled as Least Concern, which means that they’ll be hopping around for a while
- There are five other species of jackrabbits found in central and western North America
National Geographic – Black-Tailed Jackrabbit
SF Gate – Can Jackrabbits Eat Cacti?
S. Elena – Rabbits and Hares