The black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) is a common sight in the basin and range region. So common in fact, that they unfortunately often become road kill. They are found throughout the western United Sates in elevations ranging from sea level to 10,000 feet. The black-tailed jackrabbit is one of the larger rabbit species, growing up to 2 feet in length and weighing up to around 13 pounds.
The ears of the black-tailed jackrabbit are very long, around 8 inches in length, with black tips. The large ear size helps them to regulate their temperature. Their tails are also fairly long and are fluffy and black. They are buff in color with silver and black streaks that help camouflage the rabbits in their desert environment. In addition, they have long back legs to help them run fast and avoid predators and big feet that are covered with fur--even the soles of their feet are covered with fur for insulation!
Black-tailed jackrabbits are most active at dusk and during the night--which can make for hazardous driving on back country roads. Being active in the evenings helps protect them with cover against predators while they forage. They are vegetarians, eating a variety of grasses, leaves and twigs. They preserve water by eating their food twice--being able to absorb the moisture they missed during the foods first trip through their digestive system. Yes, this does mean they eat their feces. Jackrabbits are very important in the food web, as they are prey for raptors such as hawks and eagles and for carnivorous mammals such as coyotes, foxes, mountain lions and bobcats.
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