Why Are Jackrabbits Bad For Ranching?

Black tail jackrabbits are large, long eared, rabbit like creatures that live in the desert scrub lands and open grasslands of the Western United States. Because they are vegetarians, large populations of jackrabbits can pose a problem in pasture lands that are grazed by livestock. Jackrabbits like the same sorts of things that cattle, horses, sheep and other common livestock at your ranch enjoy.

In this article, we describe jackrabbits and their habits and provide sound advice for keeping them under control. Read on to learn more on why jackrabbits are bad for ranching.

What Do Jackrabbits Look Like & What Do They Do?

what do jackrabbits look like

A jackrabbit is dark tan in color with black flecks in its fur. It has long, black -tipped ears and black tipped hind feet. These creatures are not actually rabbits. They are hares, and they are quite a bit bigger than common rabbits. Their habits also differ from true rabbits.

Jackrabbits rest during the daytime in scratched out hollows in shady spots. They do not dig burrows. At dusk they come out and forage throughout the night. These vegetarians eat alfalfa, clover and grasses and other greens throughout the spring and summer.

During the wintertime, they eat dried vegetation, twigs and even some bark and wood. Jackrabbits living in the desert will eat cactus, mesquite and other tough vegetation. They have a specialized digestive system that allows them to handle this extreme roughage.

Interesting Jackrabbit Facts

While jackrabbits can live for as long as 8 years, most do not. They are typically heavily preyed upon by such common predators as badgers, coyotes and hawks.

Jackrabbits also respond to massive predation with a very high reproductive rate. They mate all year round and produce about 4 litters a year. A litter of jackrabbits may consist of 1 baby or as many as 8, but the usual number is 4

Unlike true rabbits, baby hares are prosocial. This means that they are fully furred, able to see and eat, hop and run immediately after being born.

The gestation period of a jackrabbit is 41 to 47 days. Does give birth in grassy hollows or in shallow depressions that they have scratched into the earth. They do not build a nest.

Babies stay with the mother for a couple of weeks, but are able to care for themselves after this. After one month of age, they entirely separate from the mother. At eight months of age, they are able to reproduce.

Female jackrabbits are rather larger than the males. Jackrabbits are extremely wary. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they are able to see both sides simultaneously front and back.

Their vision is not especially acute, but they are able to pick up motion quickly and respond. They also have very sharp hearing and a very keen sense of smell. Their senses are constantly in use to analyze the environment and pick up any hint of a predator nearby.

Many Predators Hunt Jackrabbits

predators hunt jackrabbits

Jackrabbits are naturally wary because they are prey animals. For this reason, they’re always watching out and listening for threats. They elude predators with their tremendous speed and their ability to jump great distances.

Jackrabbit predators include:

  • Mountain lions
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcats
  • Snakes
  • Hawks
  • Eagles
  • Foxes
  • Owls

These animals can live in a wide range of habitats from desert settings to open prairies and low foothills. Jackrabbits are more likely to spend time in open pasture lands in meadows than true rabbits and other types of vegetarian wildlife.

The reason for this is that jackrabbits can see and hear a long distance and are able to evade predators with their great speed and tremendous leaping ability.

Jackrabbits coloration also gives them some camouflage in their surroundings. Additionally, they are able to run fast and jump far. A jackrabbit will typically hop 5 feet to 10 feet.

If panicked and evading a predator, jackrabbits have been known to leap 20 feet. Additionally, jackrabbits can run as fast as 40 mph.

A hare relies on its fleetness of foot and the use of zigzag pattern of running to escape danger. When a jackrabbit runs, it flattens its ears and tucks its tail for aerodynamic advantage.

When a jackrabbit is simply running along from one place to another, every fourth or fifth leap will be exceptionally high. The purpose of this behavior is to scope out the landscape and look for predators.

When a jackrabbit encounters objects, it typically leaps over them rather than going around them. Jackrabbits use a combination of very erratic and fast sprints, and bounds to evade their predators.

Persistent predators are usually successful, though. This is because jackrabbits do not have very good endurance.

How Can You Control Jackrabbits?

how can you control jackrabbits

Because jackrabbits typically eat the same things as cattle and other livestock, excessive populations of jackrabbits can conflict with agricultural interests. While rabbits may damage domestic plants in the landscape, jackrabbits typically stay in open pasture land.

It’s important to keep jackrabbits under control because not only do they compete with livestock for greenery, but they also carry a disease called tularemia.

This disease can be transmitted to people; however, aggressive control of jackrabbits is not necessarily the most effective way of keeping these creatures under control. Additionally, completely eliminating them is neither desirable, necessary or possible.

1. Manage Grazing

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to keep jackrabbits under control is to avoid overgrazing your land. Jackrabbits will be typically found in pastures that have been overgrazed by livestock because these barren lands provide a clear line of vision.

Jackrabbits can eat tiny, emerging plants, so their presence on an overgrazed pasture prevents the growth of new forage.

Jackrabbits eat all sorts of plants including:

  • Foliage crops
  • Mesquite
  • Grasses
  • Weeds
  • Cactus

Their preference is for green vegetation, but they will eat shrubs, trees and other sorts of greenery as well.

2. Eliminate Hiding Places

Because jackrabbits are an important prey animal, attempting to eliminate them completely can have very negative impacts on the environment. The best way to keep them under control is to modify the habitat so that it is not as attractive to them.

For example, removing brush and weedy patches that would provide cover for them can discourage them from staying in a given area.

3. Don’t Count On Fences Or Traps

Construction of rabbit proof fencing can be effective against rabbits, but it is not effective against jackrabbits, who will tend to jump over it.

Likewise, trapping may be effective against rabbits, but it is not effective against hares. They do not tend to be easily tricked, and they will avoid going into dark places, cage traps and the like.

4. Avoid Chemicals

Repellents and poisons are available, but these are never advisable as they are very hard to control and the likelihood of negatively impacting beneficial fauna is too great.

5. Shoot As A Last Resort

If jackrabbit population is wildly out of control, shooting can be a way of controlling them; however, you must check with your local authorities to make sure that this is permitted.

If so, mornings and evenings are typically the most successful times for shooting jackrabbits.

6. Partner With Nature

Overall, the best way to control jackrabbits is to maintain a healthy natural balance of prey and predators. Modify the habitat so that jackrabbits don’t have a place to hide during the day, keep a dog and maintain a proper environmental balance.


  1. https://cdn-ext.agnet.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/EL-1910-controlling-cottontail-and-jackrabbit-damage.pdf
  2. https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/rabbit/
  3. https://www.nps.gov/bibe/learn/nature/jackrabbit.htm
  4. https://farmandanimals.com/history-of-cattle-ranching/

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