Jack is still hopping around our prairies

karl-terry

By Karl Terry

CMI Columnist

Jack is back. Or maybe he’s just been laying low.

Until recently I was concerned that the black-tailed jackrabbits that inhabit our desert prairies were suffering a fate similar to the sand dunes lizard and the prairie chicken.  But recent encounters with the long-eared hare prove otherwise.

Anyone who grew up on the eastern plains of New Mexico in the 1960s and ‘70s, as I did, saw a lot of jackrabbits.  Mostly we saw them splattered all over he highways, especially in the vicinity of a hay field. I think they were dumber back then or were attracted to the sound of a steel-belted tire on a lonely highway.

These days you don’t see as much jackrabbit road pizza.

We hunted them by driving erratically turning from side to side so that headlights were cast from fence line to fence line.  Usually they would freeze in the headlights and if they started to hop away before you had a bead on him the driver only had to flash the headlight dimmer to stop him again.

I know it wasn’t very sporting, but then neither were the rabbit drives that took place in the earlier part of the 20th century, when people drove the hares into a pen where  big crowds then beat them with baseball bats.

The rascally rabbits ought to be endangered but instead they just cycle up and down with the predators and the range conditions.

I know that for pioneers they were sometimes the only meat available, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually eat one myself. Once I brought home a mess of cottontail rabbits and dressed them and finally convinced my mom to fry them up. “Tastes a lot like chicken” I remember commenting, mainly because I thought that’s probably what people wanted to hear me say.

I’ve noticed a jackrabbit in a pasture about a block from the house on a pretty regular basis. Then I saw another one the other day on an early morning walk with my dog. The hare was loping across a horse pasture and remained concealed from the dog’s sight by the weeds on the fence line. I was able to predict almost exactly the spot where he would suddenly stop and freeze. If I hadn’t tracked him to where he stopped I wouldn’t have been able to locate him even standing in the middle of an open field.

I’ve got a photo I took years ago of a juvenile jackrabbit who had frozen to conceal himself in a field of dry grass.  People stare at the picture and often don’t find the rabbit.

In real life they sit so still and blend into the background so well that often you don’t see them until they burst out from close by. That’s exactly what happened the next day.

I don’t think the dog had ever seen a jackrabbit and he’s still puzzled about the long ears that kitty cat had atop his head and his bounding gait.

Welcome to our neighborhood Br’er Rabbit.

 

Karl Terry, a former publisher of the Quay County Sun,  writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

karlterry@yucca.net

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