Lepus townsendii
Bachman, 1839

lE-pus town-send-E-I

An adult White-tailed Jack Rabbit.

White-tailed Jackrabbits are heavy-bodied hares. The pelage is pale buffy gray above and white below. The tail lacks a black stripe and has, at most, a pale grayish stripe. As in the black-tailed jackrabbit, this species has long ears, legs, and feet.
They may be distinguished from other Kansas rabbits and hares by: 1) large size, 2) long ears, legs, and large feet, 3) upper parts buffy gray tinged with black and brown, 4) underparts white except for a darker throat, 5) a characteristic all-white tail (some individuals may have a dusky mid-dorsal stripe on the tail but this stripe does not continue onto the back), and 6) hind legs which are relatively shorter than in the black-tailed jack rabbit, and more heavily furred in winter. In the northern part of the range, and at higher elevations, these hares become white in winter except for the tips of their ears, which remain black. In Kansas, winter pelage becomes paler and lighter, but not completely white. Juveniles resemble adults in color. 

The white-tailed Jackrabbit is a Great Basin species that dispersed onto the northern Great Plains and then southward as far as southern Kansas. When European settlers first arrived in western Kansas, the white-tailed jackrabbit was the more abundant of the two jackrabbit species. Later, the black-tailed jackrabbit became the more abundant species, and eventually the white-tailed species completely disappeared from the state. The same thing was occurring in other states on the Great Plains. This may have been a response to a long-term trend toward warmer or more arid conditions than previously existed. Under these conditions, the black-tailed jackrabbit (a denizen of the desert southwest) is able to out-compete the white-tail.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 34 Total Records 
  • 34 Museum Vouchers 
  • 0 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Ellis (2); Finney (2); Logan (8); Phillips (2); Riley (1); Trego (13);

Natural History:
During the day, white-tailed Jackrabbits rest in "forms" (a shallow earth concavity that the animal makes under grass clumps or low shrubs) where it crouches low with ears flat on its back. It will remain still until approached within a few feet, then with quick acceleration it will bound across the prairie in leaps of as much as three meters. The ears are held erect and are always adjusting to sources of sound. A sidewise lope differentiates this species from the black-tailed jack rabbit behaviorally. In evening this hare leaves its hiding place and begins foraging, moving leisurely and deliberately across open fields in short hops, many times following trails created and maintained by other hares. Jack rabbits forage all night, especially if the moon is out. By early morning it returns to a resting area. White-tailed jack rabbits have keen eye sight, good hearing and good sense of smell. They protect themselves by kicks with strong hind feet and by biting. In severe winter conditions, this hare may dig shallow holes in snow to gain protection from winds.
Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 540-640 mm; tail 70-112 mm; hind foot 126-165 mm; ear 95-114 mm; weight 3-5.5 kilograms. Adult females are larger than males.
In summer, white-tailed jack rabbits feed on grasses, leaves, and any other green vegetation available. In winter drier and coarser materials are consumed including buds, twigs, and the bark of woody plants that project above the snow.
This hare usually breeds in March, and after a gestation period of approximately forty days one to nine young (usually three or four) are born in a crude shelter or ground depression from April to June. There appear to be two or more litters per year. As with hares in general, the young are covered with fur and have open eyes. The young are capable of foraging after fifteen days and are weaned when one-fourth grown. In two months they are independent of the female.

Occurrence Activity:
Large mammalian carnivores, eagles, hawks, and owls are the principal predators of white-tailed jack rabbits. Because of its large size, the tracks of this hare are more widely spaced laterally than are those of the smaller cottontails. The larger fecal pellets are also characteristic of this species.

1909 Nelson, E. W. The rabbits of North America. North American Fauna, 29:1-314. ():
1939 Carter, F. L. A study of jackrabbit shifts in range in western Kansas. Trans. Kansas Acad. Sci., 42:431-435. ():
1940 Brown, H. L. The distribution of the white-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii campanius Hollister) in Kansas. Trans. Kansas Acad. Sci., 43:385-389. ():
1951 Hall, E. R. A synopsis of the North American Lagomorpha. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist., 5:119-202. ():
1952 Cockrum, E. L. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303. ():
1981 Hall, E. R. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 1-600pp.
1983 Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, R. S. Hoffmann, and C. Jones University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE. 1-379pp.
1985 Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, and J. R. Choate University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 1-371pp.
1987 Choate, J. R. Post-settlement history of mammals in western Kansas Southwestern Naturalist 32(2):157-168
1987 Lim, B. K. Lepus townsendii Mammalian Species 288():1-6
1994 Fitzgerald, J. F., C. A. Meaney, and D. M. Armstrong University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO. 1-467pp.
1999 Wilson, D. E., and S. Ruff Smithsonian Institution Press, Washsington, DC. 1-750pp.
2008 Timm, R. M., G. R. Pisani, J. R. Choate, N. A. Slade, G. A. Kaufman, and D. W. Kaufman http://www.ku.edu/~mammals, . pp.
Account Last Updated:
7/13/2017 10:17:22 AM

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