OTHER MAMMALS: Jack Rabbits and other
Fig. 1. Blacktail
jackrabbit, Lepus californicus (left); whitetail
jackrabbits, L. townsendii (middle); showshoe hare, L.
Three major species of
jackrabbits occur in North America (Fig. 1). These hares
are of the genus Lepus and are represented primarily by
the blacktail jackrabbit, the whitetail jackrabbit, and
the snowshoe hare. Other members of this genus include
the antelope jackrabbit and the European hare. Hares
have large, long ears, long legs, and a larger body size
The whitetail jackrabbit
is the largest hare in the Great Plains, having a head
and body length of 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm) and
weighing 5 to 10 pounds (2.2 to4.5 kg). It is brownish
gray in summer and white or pale gray in winter. The
entire tail is white. The blacktail jackrabbit, somewhat
smaller than its northern cousin, weighs only 3 to 7
pounds (1.3 to 3.1 kg) and is 17 to 21 inches (43 to 53
cm) long. It has a grayish-brown body, large
black-tipped ears, and a black streak on the top of its
tail. The snowshoe hare is 13 to 18 inches (33 to 46 cm)
long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kg). It has
larger feet than the whitetail and blacktail
jackrabbits. The snowshoe turns white in winter and is a
dark brown during the summer. Its ears are smaller than
those of the other hares. The antelope jackrabbit is 19
to 21 inches (48 to 53 cm) long and weighs 6 to 13
pounds (2.7 to 5.9 kg). Its ears are extremely large and
its sides are a pale white. The European hare is the
largest of the hares in the Northeast, weighing 7 to 10
pounds (3.1 to 4.5 kg) and reaching 25 to 27 inches (63
to 68 cm) in size. This nonnative hare is brownish gray
The whitetail jackrabbit
is found mainly in the north central and northwestern
United States and no further south than the extreme
north central part of New Mexico and southern Kansas
(Fig. 2a).The blacktail jackrabbit is found mainly in
the southwestern United States and the southern Great
Plains, and no further north than central South Dakota
and southern Washington (Fig. 2b). Snowshoe hares occupy
the northern regions of North America, including Canada,
Alaska, the northern continental United States, and the
higher elevations as far south as New Mexico (Fig. 2c).
Antelope jackrabbits are found only in southern Arizona,
New Mexico, and western Mexico. The European hare is
found only in southern Quebec, New York, and other New
Fig. 2. Range of the (a)
whitetail jackrabbit, (b) blacktail jackrabbit, and (c)
General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior
Members of the genus Lepus
are born well-furred and able to move about. Little or
no nest is prepared, although the young are kept hidden
for 3 to 4 days. Females may produce up to 4 litters per
year with 2 to 8 young per litter. Reproductive rates
may vary from year to year depending on environmental
Where food and shelter are
available in one place, no major daily movement of hares
occurs. When food areas and shelter areas are separated,
morning and evening movements may be observed. Daily
movements of 1 to 2 miles (1.6 to 3.2 km) each way are
fairly common. In dry seasons, 10-mile (16-km) round
trips from desert to alfalfa fields have been reported.
Hares consume 1/2 to 1
pound (1.1 to 2.2 kg) of green vegetation each day.
Significant damage occurs when hare concentrations are
attracted to orchards, gardens, ornamentals, or other
agricultural crops. High jackrabbit populations can also
damage range vegetation.
Most damage to gardens,
landscapes, or agricultural crops occurs in areas
adjacent to swamps or rangeland normally used by hares.
Damage may be temporary and usually occurs when natural
vegetation is dry. Green vegetation may be severely
damaged during these dry periods.
Orchards and ornamental
trees and shrubs are usually damaged by overbrowsing,
girdling, and stripping of bark, especially by snowshoe
hares. This type of damage is most common during winter
in northern areas.
Rangeland overbrowsing and
overgrazing can occur any time jackrabbit numbers are
high. Eight jackrabbits are estimated to eat as much as
one sheep, and 41 jackrabbits as much as one cow.
Estimates of jackrabbit
populations run as high as 400 jackrabbits per square
mile (154/km 2) extending over several hundred square
miles. Range damage can be severe in such situations,
especially where vegetation productivity is low.
Jackrabbits are considered
nongame animals in most states and are not protected by
state game laws. A few states protect jackrabbits
through regulations. Most states in which snowshoe hares
occur have some regulations protecting them. Consult
local wildlife agencies to determine the legal status of
the species before applying controls.
Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Fencing. Exclusion is most often accomplished by the
construction of fences and gates around the area to be
protected. Woven wire or poultry netting should exclude
all hares from the area to be protected. To be
effective, use wire mesh of less than 1 1/2 inches (3.8
cm), 30 to 36 inches (76 to 91 cm) high, with at least
the bottom 6 inches (15 cm) buried below ground level.
Regular poultry netting made of 20gauge wire can provide
protection for 5 to 7 years or more. Although the
initial cost of fences appears high—about $1,000 per
mile ($625/km)—they are economically feasible for
protecting high-value crops and provide year-round
protection on farms with a history of jackrabbit
problems. Remember to spread the initial cost over the
expected life of the fence when comparing fencing with
other methods. Exclusion by fencing is desirable for
small areas of high-value crops such as gardens, but is
usually impractical and too expensive for larger
acreages of farmland.
Electric fencing has been
found to exclude jackrabbits. Six strands spaced 3
inches (7.6 cm) apart alternating hot and ground wires
should provide a deterrent to most hares. Modern
energizers and high-tensile wire will minimize cost and
Tree Trunk Guards. The use
of individual protectors to guard the trunks of young
trees or vines may also be considered a form of
exclusion. Among the best of these are cylinders made
from woven wire netting. Twelve- to 18-inch-wide
(30.5-to 45.7-cm) strips of 1-inch (2.5-cm) mesh poultry
netting can be formed into cylinders around trees.
Cylinders should be anchored with lath or steel rods and
braced away from the trunk to prevent rabbits from
pressing them against the trees and gnawing through
Types of tree protectors
commercially available include aluminum, nylon mesh
wrapping, and treated jute cardboard. Aluminum foil, or
even ordinary sacking, has been wrapped and tied around
trees with effective results.
Wrapping the bases of
haystacks with 3-foot-high (0.9-m) poultry netting
provides excellent protection.
Habitat Manipulation. In areas where jackrabbit or
hare damage is likely to occur, highly preferred crops
such as alfalfa, young cotton plants, lettuce, and young
grape vines are usually most damaged. Crops with large
mature plants, such as corn, usually are not damaged
once they grow beyond the seedling stage. Where
possible, avoid planting vulnerable crops near
historically high hare populations.
Overuse of range forage
can sometimes lead to high jackrabbit numbers.
Jackrabbits are least abundant where grass grows best
within their range. Like many rodents, they prefer open
country with high visibility to areas where the grass
prevents them from seeing far. Thus, control programs
accompanied by changes in grazing practices that
encourage more vegetative growth may be necessary for
Guard Dogs. Dogs can be chained along boundaries of
crop fields or near gardens to deter jackrabbits.
Since state pesticide registrations vary, check with
your local Cooperative Extension or USDA-APHIS-ADC
office for information on repellents legal in your area.
repellents are offered as a means of reducing or
preventing hare damage to trees, vines, or farm and
garden crops. Repellents make protected plants
distasteful to jackrabbits. A satisfactory repellent
must also be noninjurious to plants.
In the past, a variety of
repellents have been recommended in the form of paints,
smears, or sprays. Many of these afford only temporary
protection and must be reapplied too often to warrant
their use. Other, more persistent materials have caused
injurious effects to the treated plants. Some chemical
substances such as lime-sulphur, copper carbonate, and
asphalt emulsions have provided a certain amount of
protection and were harmless to the plants. These are
less commonly used today and have been replaced by
various commercial preparations such as ammonium soaps,
capsaicin, dried blood, napthalene, thiram, tobacco
dust, and ziram, which are probably more effective.
Repellents are applied during either the winter dormant
season or summer growing season. Recommendations vary
Be sure to use repellents
according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow
Powders. Any repellent
applications that involve the use of powders should be
dusted on garden crops early in the morning when plants
are covered with dew, or immediately after a rain. Do
not touch plants with equipment or clothing because
moist plants, especially beans, are susceptible to
disease. When a duster is not available and only a few
plants are involved, use a bag made of cheesecloth to
sift repellent dust onto plant foliage. Repeated
applications may be necessary after rains have washed
the powder from the foliage and as new plant growth
Sprays. Thoroughly cover
the upper surfaces of the leaves with spray repellent.
If a sprayer is unavailable and only a small number of
plants are involved, a whisk broom or brush can be used
to apply the repellent to the plant foliage. The
repellents will adhere to the foliage for a longer
period if a latex-type adhesive is used. Reapply liquid
repellents after a heavy rain and at 10-day intervals to
make certain new plant growth is protected.
Some repellents are
not registered for application to leaves, stems, or
fruits of plants to be harvested for human use. A list
of registered commercial repellents can be found in
Supplies and Materials. Many of these may be purchased
at a reasonable cost from suppliers handling seed,
insecticides, hardware, and farm equipment.
containing thiram are effective and can be applied
safely to trees and shrubs. Treat all stems and low
branches to a point higher than rabbits can reach while
standing on top of the estimated snow cover. One
application made during a warm, dry day in late fall
should suffice for the entire dormant season. Coal tar,
pine tar, tar paper, and oils have caused damage to
young trees under certain conditions. Carbolic acid and
other volatile compounds have proved effective for only
short periods. For further information on repellents and
their availability, see Supplies and Materials.
Since state pesticide registrations vary, check with
your local Cooperative Extension or USDA-APHIS-ADC
office for information on toxicants legal in your area.
Be sure to read the entire label. Use strictly in
accordance with precautionary statements and directions.
State and federal regulations also apply.
Anticoagulants. In areas
where they are legal, anticoagulant baits may be used to
control jackrabbits. Varying degrees of success have
been reported with diphacinone, warfarin, brodifacoum,
and bromadiolone. Anticoagulants control jackrabbits and
hares by reducing the clotting ability of the blood and
by causing damage to the capillary blood vessels. Death
is caused only if the treated bait is consumed in
sufficient quantities for several days. A single feeding
on anticoagulant baits will not control jackrabbits.
Brodifacoum and bromadiolone may be exceptions, but they
are not yet registered for use on jackrabbits. Bait must
be eaten at several feedings on 5 or more successive
days with no periods longer than 48 hours between
When baiting with
anticoagulants, use covered self-dispensing feeders or
nursery flats to facilitate bait consumption and prevent
spillage. Secure feeding stations so that they cannot be
turned over. Place 1 to 5 pounds (0.5 to 2.5 kg) of bait
in a covered self-dispensing feeder or nursery flat in
runways, resting, or feeding areas that are frequented
by jackrabbits. Inspect bait stations daily and add bait
as needed. Acceptance may not occur until rabbits become
accustomed to the feeder stations or nursery flats,
which may take several days. When bait in the feeder is
entirely consumed overnight, increase the amount. It may
be necessary to move feeders to different locations to
achieve bait acceptance. Bait should be available until
all feeding ceases, which may take from 1 to 4 weeks.
Replace moldy or old bait with fresh bait. Pick up and
dispose of baits upon completion of control programs.
Dispose of poisoned rabbit carcasses by deep burying or
Fumigants There are
no fumigants registered for jackrabbits.
Trapping with box-type traps is not effective
because jackrabbits are reluctant to enter a trap or
dark enclosure. Snowshoe hares are susceptible to
Body-gripping and leghold
traps can be placed in rabbit runways. Trapping in
runways may result in unacceptable nontarget catches.
Check for tracks in snow or dirt surfaces to be sure
only target animals are present. Placement of sticks 1
foot (0.3 m) above the trap will encourage deer and
other large animals to step over the trap while allowing
access to jackrabbits or other hares. Be sure to check
with local wildlife officials on the legality of
trapping hares and jackrabbits.
Where safe and legal to do so, shooting jackrabbits
may suppress or eliminate damage. Effective control may
be achieved using a spotlight and a shooter in the open
bed of a pickup truck. Driving around borders of crop
fields or within damaged range areas and carefully
shooting jackrabbits can remove a high percentage of the
population. Some states require permits to shoot from
vehicles or to use spotlights.
In some states sport
hunting of jackrabbits can be encouraged and may keep
populations below problem levels.
Other Methods Predators.
Natural enemies of jackrabbits include hawks, owls,
eagles, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and weasels. Control of
these predators should occur only after taking into
account their beneficial effect on the reduction of
Economics of Damage and Control
considerable vegetation. In cases where their overuse of
natural forage results in the reduction of livestock on
rangeland, control measures may need to be implemented.
Few studies have been conducted on the
cost-effectiveness of jackrabbit control on rangelands.
Damage must be extreme to justify expenditures for
control programs. In most cases, cultural controls and
natural mortality will suffice to keep jackrabbit
populations in check.
Economic loss on croplands
is much easier to measure. In areas with historic
jackrabbit or hare damage, farmers should anticipate
problems and have materials available to use at the
first sign of damage. During dry times of the year or
times of natural food shortages, preventive measures
such as shooting and exclusion may be considered a part
of regular operations. Jackrabbits and other hares can
be deterred most easily if control measures are
implemented before the hares become accustomed to or
dependent on crops.
Figure 1 of the snowshoe
hare by Clint E. Chapman, University of Nebraska.
Figure 2 adapted by David
Thornhill, from Burt and Grossenheider (1976).
For Additional Information
Dunn, J. P., J. A. Chapman, and R. E. Marsh. 1982.
Jackrabbits. Pages 124-145 in J. A. Chapman and G. A.
Feldhamer, eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology,
management, and economics. The Johns Hopkins Univ.
Evans, J., P. L. Hegdal,
and R. E. Griffith, Jr. 1982. Wire fencing for
controlling jackrabbit damage. Univ. Idaho. Coop. Ext.
Serv. Bull. No. 618. 7 pp.
Johnston, J. C. 1978.
Anticoagulant baiting for jackrabbit control. Proc.
Vertebr. Pest Conf. 8:152-153.
Lechleitner, R. R. 1958.
Movements, density, and mortality in a black-tailed
jackrabbit population. J. Wildl. Manage. 22:371-384.
Palmer, T. S. 1987.
Jackrabbits of the U.S. US Dep. Agric. Biol. Survey
Schwartz, C. W., and E. R.
Schwartz. 1981. The wild mammals of Missouri. Univ.
Missouri Press, Columbia. 356 pp.
Taylor W. P., C. T.
Vorhies, and P. B. Lister 1935. The relation of
jackrabbits to grazing in southern Arizona. J. For.
US Department of the
Interior. 1973. Controlling rabbits. US Fish Wildl. Serv.
Bull. 2 pp.
Vorhies, C. T., and W. P.
Taylor. 1933. The life histories and ecology of
jackrabbits, Lepus alleni and Lepus californicus sp. in
relation to grazing in Arizona. Univ. Arizona Agric.
Exp. Stn. Tech. Bull. 49:467-587.
Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert
M. Timm; Gary E. Larson
PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF
WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994
Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska -Lincoln
United States Department
of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service Animal Damage Control
Great Plains Agricultural
Council Wildlife Committee