They’re cute, they’re fuzzy and they’re everywhere! As the city of Airdrie continues to grow, so too does its rabbit and hare population. Throughout southern Alberta, there are three distinct types of rabbits and hares: mountain cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares and white-tailed jackrabbits. In Calgary and the surrounding area, the most commonly seen type is the white-tailed jackrabbit. On any given evening, these rabbits are hopping boundlessly all over your community. Here is everything you need to know about white-tailed jack rabbits - the Easter bunnies of your community.
Unknown to most, rabbits and hares are actually different. A hare is typically larger than a rabbit, has longer hind legs and can jump farther and faster than a rabbit. Hares also change colour depending on the season. In the summer months, a hare is brown or gray, but in the winter they turn white. Even though they are referred to as jackrabbits, the white-tailed jackrabbit is actually a type of hare.The white-tailed jackrabbit is native to western and central parts of North America. In Canada, its range includes British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
Traditionally a prairie animal, these hares have successfully migrated to within city limits where their population now thrives. This migration has happened for one simple reason: protection. In an urban environment, these little critters are able to find more places to hide from their natural predators such as bobcats, coyotes, hawks and owls. In the city, hares have more places to disperse to when fleeing, and there is also more food and a wider variety of plants that they can eat for survival.
The white-tailed jackrabbit is nocturnal. It spends its day laying in a shallow depression in the ground called a form. Forms are usually found beneath vegetation so that the rabbit can stay hidden during the day. They then emerge at night to find food.
Rabbits and hares have a diet that varies with the seasons. They consume a diet of grasses, plants and shrubs in the summer, while eating the buds, twigs and bark of shrubs and trees in the winter. Hares have a big appetite, too. They can consume up to 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of green vegetation in one day!
Jackrabbits usually live for only 12-15 months in an urban environment. Though they have a large population, weather, predators and other mortality factors keep the population from blossoming to an overwhelming rate. At full growth, jackrabbits weigh around 7.5 pounds and are between 22 and 26 inches long; though female rabbits can be a little bit larger. These athletic little animals can travel at a speed of up to 55 km/hr, and jump as high as 5 meters!
At this time of year, you may see even more rabbits and hares out than usual. This is because their mating season is just getting started. The mating season for jackrabbits occurs between April and July with litters of four to six being born about a month later. Female jackrabbits can have up to 4 liters per year.
This time of year, jackrabbits are all over our communities looking for food. Their colours are beginning to change from white to brown or gray and they are becoming much easier to see against the white snow. When you’re out and about in your community, keep your eyes peeled for jack rabbits hopping around the streets near your home!