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.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxThey 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 condtions, the black-tailed jackrabbit (a denizen of the Desert Southwest) is able to outcompete the white-tail.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences)
Ellis (2), Finney (2), Logan (8), Phillips (2), Riley (1), Trego (13)
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.
During the day, white-tailed jack rabbits 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.
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.
Growth and Longevity:
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.
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.
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