Scientist says jackrabbits are gone from the greater Yellowstone

“A jackrabbit found throughout much of the West has disappeared from the Yellowstone area, although the reason why remains a mystery, a new study concludes.”

Scientist says jackrabbits are gone from Yellowstone. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press writer.

Dr. Joel Berger seems to be doing a lot of newsworthy research.






  1. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    With the re-introduction of the wolf, I thought Yellowstone once again had its complete historical roster of plants and animals that called it home before the European arrival.

    Is this jackrabbit now the only species that Yellowstone has lost since 1500?

    I know very few natural areas in the U.S. contain the full complement of species that has existed there since the colonization of the continent.

    I thought Yellowstone and Glacier were two such areas.

  2. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    Dr. Berger is a fairly well published scientist in the area of predator/prey interaction, and in animal behavior. I will wait to read the paper (it’s still in press) but I am skeptical based on my own interactions with jackrabbits in Wyoming.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This article was interesting, but one thing it didn’t give was any information when jackrabbits were last seen in the area. Were they seen after wolves were reintroduced? After the year 2000? When were they last observed?

  4. kt Avatar

    This is a species that turns white in winter – like snowshoes. I wonder if they turn white too early, and stay white too long, for global warming winters – i. e. sticking out like a sore thumb to avian predators?

    I don’t know enough about Yellowstone – but how much sagebrush, and what species, burned in the fires?

    They seem to have to have some windswept sagebrush-bunchgrass in the winter from what I have seen elsewhere (Owyhees, Pahsimeroi, eastern Oregon). Windswept low sagebrush for cover near mountain big sagebrush seems ideal.

    They have small litters, and they are not doing fine in many areas— at all.

    AND as more sagebrush burns in the landscape – EVERYTHING converges on remaining sage in the winter. Deer, sage grouse, elk, white-tailed jackrabbits … Have those miserable elk, I wonder, hammered critical sagebrush patches … in combinatin with fire??? Maybe not enough wolves soon enough …

  5. Heather Avatar

    What about the effects of trapping? That is NEVER mentioned….

  6. Concerned Avatar


    There is no indication this is a species that is being trapped..

  7. mikarooni Avatar

    My understanding, from talking to people who had heard that the study was underway, is that this population of jackrabbits was in decline for most of the 20th century and essentially gone from the area, down to a only a very few rare individuals, long before wolves were reintroduced, although we joked at the time that, if the study was ever finished and released, the anti-wolf crowd would blame it on the wolves that were not yet even there.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I have never seen a jackrabbit in Yellowstone Park, but the article is really about the greater Yellowstone,which has a lot more variety.

    I think your hypothesis about the effects of brown winters and white jackrabbits has merit.

  9. kt Avatar

    Hope this link works. COOL pictures of winter jackrabbits in this document …

    Nothing much more startling than having a WTJR explode from underfoot out of a 6″ tall low sagebrush … and spring away looking as big as a coyote in the context of its surroundings.

  10. vicki Avatar

    I grew up in Arizona, and we spent a lot of time out on the desert, camping and hiking, etc. There were so many jackrabbits that they were a hazard when you drove.
    Then we moved to Colorado, and there were a lot, but not as many. I can tell you that I haven’t even seen a jackrabbit here in 4 years.
    I can also tell you that I think that is contributing to te rogue coyotes that make headlines lately. They are running out of prey.
    Jackrabbits don’t have large litters, but they do breed frequently. And I never saw as many up high as I did in lower lying areas. I see far fewer rabbits in general these days.
    I figured Colorado’s over developement and urban sprawl was a large contributor. I would think that has an impact on the GYE too.
    Maybe this says something larger, since pygmy rabbits are in peril. Maybe this speeks about rabbits as a whole, and their survival or demise.
    My thought would be that if we can’t keep those animals that “breed like rabbits” sustained without intervention, what’s next?

  11. kt Avatar

    If you go to Screen Page 10 at the link above (and repeated here),

    there is a chart of years … THE major thing that happened across the West in the period between when rabbit numbers were high, and when they dropped – is the massive sagebrush killing that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. if I was looking into this – I would examine the BLM and Forest Service files (and the old SCS now NRCS files) for activities like paying for spraying on private cow pasture lands) for sagebrush herbiciding, burning, and plowing/railing. If I recall, Rachel Carson in Silent Spring mentions herbiciding of willows somewhere in this region … in the time when rabbits dropped out – there was a reign/rain of terror unleashed on all denizens of sagebrush habitats as an arsenal of chemicals and machines were put to work to convert sagebrush to cow grass in that period.

  12. vicki Avatar

    So KT, can you reseed these plants? If so, where could you do that? Wha would it require?

  13. kt Avatar

    Yes, but counter to the myths that “range” folks have promoted over the years,
    recovery of sagebrush ecosystems from fire or other disturbance takes many decades – even centuries. And that is if weeds don’t move in …

    To reseed – sagebrush seed needs bare soil. Seeds don’t remain viable in soils long at all – and so if you wipe out a large area with “treatment” or a wildfire – with long time periods to recovery. Seed can be collected – but for best results, in should be the local ecotype of the species or subspecies of sagebrush actually growing on the site to be reseeded.

  14. Buffaloed Avatar

    I’ve seen jackrabbits in the Park near Gardiner in the last year. Are these a different species? They are very large and seem very white when I have seen them at night but I haven’t seen them during the day.

  15. Heather Avatar

    Concerned mostly, and others: Again, noone is talking about trapping. If there is hunting, there is probably trapping allowed. Trapping is one of those secrets. And Concerned, I will call Yellowtone Park to see if they allow trapping. I know they allow hunting in limited areas, so they probably allow trapping, but I will find out and let you know. As well, the area for the article re: jack rabbits is not Yellowstone Park only, but surrounding areas. And we all know trapping is allowed almost anywhere. if you have any disagreements with me there, call your FWP and find out. I have just noticed that trapping does not come up as a reason for loss of species, but yet, FWP does not keep track of incidental species lost to trapping.

  16. Heather Avatar

    Concerned: as an addendum I have asked my colleagues here about this issue and will report back. How would you know if there is no indication of this species being trapped? The FWP does not keep track of what is trapped. So how would you know?

  17. Concerned Avatar


    Yes, in fact the FWP does keep track of their trappers..I look forward to your report back.

  18. Concerned Avatar

    Where in the heck did you come up with…There is Limited hunting in the park? There has been no legal hunting in the park since the late 60’s when they were culling the elk herds…there is also no trapping allowed in the park, I don’t know who you are getting your information from, but there is not hunting, and no trapping in Yellowstone National Park..

  19. Heather Avatar

    Acutally , the FWP does NOT keep track of what has been killed, and what is reported. I know that. How many Endangered species have been caught in traps? And how many pet dogs? My cats have been caught in traps – not a lot gets recorded conveniently.
    I’ve come up with” limited hunting in the park because I’ve looked up information on Yellowstone website. Why do you insist on insulting me? It will get you no where…

  20. Heather Avatar

    Tell me what you know about the numbers for endangered species being caught in traps – I would REALLY like to know.

  21. Concerned Avatar


    Perhaps you are confusing the limited hunt in Grand Teton National Park, cause there is not hunting or trapping in Yellowstone…the last legal hunt in Yellowstone involved Elk.

    And again, you are the one that brought up trapping, not me, I just said, there is no indication that the Jack Rabbit is being trapped!

    As they are pretty well gone from this area, anyone who decided they wanted to trap Jack Rabbits would pretty much be barking up the wrong tree…..

    If your going to go off the handle, at least try to do it with some facts and not your immature emotion…

  22. Concerned Avatar

    Why do you insist on insulting me? I know quite alot about the numbers of endanger species being caught in traps, you can call the FWP parks office on Monday, the one located in Kalispell, if your so inclined, they can provide quite a few numbers..

    Please provide a link to the limited hunting link that says there is limited hunting in Yellowstone National Park, I would be very interested to read the information..

  23. Concerned Avatar

    And what the heck does the Jack Rabbit, have to do with endanger species? It is not currently a listed species, endangered species has absolutely nothing to do with the Jack rabbit that is not in Yellowstone.

  24. Concerned Avatar


    You just might want to take a look at this link:

    It states, Hunters are reminded, there is no hunting within Yellowstone National Park…Trapping is a hunting activity as well and is not allowed in the park!

  25. Concerned Avatar

    Now, I will address, what you call and insult, I am not insulting you at all, I am counter your wild accusations, last week it was, man maybe introducing mange(it has happened before) although it still has not been proven, this week it is trapping, which had absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand, last week you asked me for my name, which I provided, then you continued to state you knew my position on wolves, which was wrong, you speak with emotion and not fact, you do your cause no justice, you have passion, but you don’t know how to use it effectively, which is sad..Now you make claims your cats have been caught in traps…prove it? pictures or reports would be enough…

  26. Heather Avatar

    You are so defensive SO FAST for the wrong reasons.

    I’ve looked at Yellowstones’ websites. My point was that TRAPPING IS NEVER TALKED ABOUT as a source of decimating populations. My point was about SURROUNDING AREAS and I said I would check into it to see if trapping was allowed in Yellowstone, as there is limited hunting (BISON).

    The jack rabbit should sure as hell be on the endangered species list now! but that would take FOREVER to take place, look at the polar bear…

    I know there is limited hunting (BISON) in yellowstone, so there may be trapping. I said didnt know that and would find out. But WE KNOW there is trapping in surrounding areas, because trapping is allowed everywhere in this state. If you are so concerned you would actually take my point of views into consideration rather than violently refuse them. That is why I have never liked your name, concerned, because it is so on the fence. But I have noticed your tone on this blog seems to be changing for some reason. and I’m glad.

  27. Heather Avatar

    FWP cannot possible know what is being trapped in this state. There are many instances of dogs being trapped, the owners not knowing, and other animals being trapped. That is why I bring up endangered species, because if they are caught, and not reported, no one knows, and there population goes down. if you are really concerned as you say you are you would listen to what I am saying…

  28. Concerned Avatar


    There is not limited hunting of bison in Yellowstone, the hunt occurred OUTSIDE OF THE PARK, yes, there is trapping in the areas surrounding the park..but NOT IN THE PARK, this is FACT!

    I am not defensive to you, I have answered every single one of your questions, in the best manner I know, you came to a conclusion about me, you have made up your mind, you want me to take you point of view, then why don’t you take my points of view?

    You make accusations, with out any facts at all!

    I could care less if you like my name, that has no bearing at all on my work, I do know what I am talking about, and yes, I am neutral on many issues, this allows me a clear mind to look at facts, not supposition, not accusations and no emotion, as they will not solve the issues that currently face the west..

    I look at your point of view, but it is so laced with emotion, it is difficult to actually ascertain your position…

    I admire your passion, but your method is sorely lacking.


  29. Concerned Avatar


    If you would come with FACTS, I would be more than happy to listen to your position, but you are posting from a position of emotion, that does nothing and nobody any good at all!

    Your heart is in the right place, but you have to learn how to make it effective, don’t attack, conquer, that is always the most effective way to win and draw people to your side of an argument..I don’t dislike you, or your position, I strongly disagree with your method.

  30. Buffaloed Avatar


    I hate to say that I agree with Concerned about your methods. Yes, there is trapping outside of Yellowstone Park but it is usually trapping for predatory animals and there probably is a lot of unreported killing of non-target animals. I don’t deny that at all. I don’t know if there is much likelihood of capturing rabbits or not by using these methods though because they are not predatory and don’t respond to the same scents that predators do which is how trapping attracts predators to the traps in the first place. I don’t feel that trapping is a very ethical way to hunt myself and I feel that it kills or injures far too many non-target species as well as pets. That being said, I don’t think that it has been the cause or even a contributing factor to the decline or to the removal of jack rabbits from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). This is speculation on my behalf too but it just doesn’t jive with me that trapping is the reason. I don’t deny that there might be some jackrabbits caught unintentionally.

    As far as trapping or hunting inside Yellowstone National Park, it is strictly forbidden. There is no hunting for bison in Yellowstone and I know this for a fact because I am on the board of directors of the Buffalo Field Campaign who oppose the current hunt outside of Yellowstone which ended at dusk just a few hours ago. I have seen literally thousands of buffalo hazed, captured, sent to slaughter, or shot by hunters but I can say for a fact that hunting and trapping is not done in the park. Well, trapping of buffalo is done in the Park near Gardiner but it is a different kind of trapping than what we are talking about. I can’t remember the name of the act which forbids hunting inside YNP but it is strongly enforced (Organic Act? I don’t think so but maybe it could be the Lacey Act). You can’t even bring a weapon into the Park unless it is dismantled. There are however hunters who pass through the Park to get to areas outside of the Park that are accessible more easily that way. The Absoroka Mountains to the northwest of the Park are a good example. There are however elk taken illegally from the Park by hunters that don’t realize that they are in the Park or think that they can get away with it. This is a frequent occurrence along highway 191 that runs through the northwest corner of the Park from West Yellowstone to Big Sky.

    There is hunting allowed in Grand Teton National Park and there were even some cattle allowed to graze there but I don’t know if that still occurs. There was an incident where cattle were being grazed and opponents warned that grazing so near highly brucellosis infected elk during the time that they are calving would be great risk for infecting their cattle and sure enough it happened. Those cattle were destroyed and I think that the family gave up their grazing permit in the Park if I am not mistaken. GTNP is operated under different rules from Yellowstone since it was declared a National Park after there had been “traditional” (another word for “we’ve always done it this way”) uses established in the area. These “traditional” uses included hunting so it is allowed.

    I think that one of the big possible reasons for the loss of these jackrabbits may be due to habitat change or climate change like kt brought up. Rabbits are known to have great population fluctuations and that fluctuation may be at a severe low now and has pushed the population to such low levels that there aren’t enough rabbits to find each other to mate thus eliminating them from the entire GYE. I don’t know, this is just mere speculation on my behalf and I doubt we will ever know for sure. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that humans had something to do with it though since we seem to think that we can do anything that we want and let the consequences be damned as long as we can make a buck.

    I think that it might be a good idea for a rabbit reintroduction program. If successful it might change the dynamic and could have an impact of populations of ungulates such as the embattled pronghorn population in the northern range which are suffering due to habitat and coyote predation issues. If the coyotes could depend on small prey like rabbits then maybe enough of the young antelope could make it through that tough period when they become prey to coyotes. This is speculation too. I don’t know this to be a fact.

    I do admire your passion but you should not present your speculation as facts. These are very serious issues and that does no good. It makes the “browns” think that all advocates for wildlife are shooting from the hip when only a few do. I am as emotional about these issues as you are, maybe even more so, but I have to remind myself that I don’t know everything and that it is okay to ask questions or speculate as long as I label it as such but it is not okay to jump to conclusions based on those emotions.

    Now back to sleep, I have a rally for the buffalo to attend at the gates of Yellowstone Park in the morning.

  31. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for the good summary of these issues.

  32. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Perhaps I can add something to this. I did some research for Dr. Berger a couple of years ago on this question. He asked me to find out about jackrabbit populations east of the Continental Divide in Fremont County, which is on the southeastern edges of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and part of the Wind River Basin watershed.

    Since I live just east of Jackson Hole, in the Dubois area, I already knew that although I see jackrabbits occasionally, they aren’t anywhere as common as cottontails.

    I went through a bunch of historical records (mostly old newspapers; Game & Fish had nothing, literally nothing) and interviewed several old-timers, including the well-known biologist, conservationist, and journalist Tom Bell, who was born here and still lives in Lander.

    In the early 20th century, jackrabbits were once hunted primarily by circular communal drives and clubbed. They were poisoned as well. However, that didn’t seem to control their numbers to any degree. I never heard of any trapping; they were too numerous to trap. Mass killing was the approach to control, but it didn’t work. There were just too many of them.

    Then, it seems that there was a major tularemia epidemic in the 30s that killed off both jacks and cottontails. Tom Bell specifically remembered that one year there were jacks everywhere; then the next year, there were none. He was very young at the time, but he remembered it was either 1935 or 1936.

    Cottontails rebounded from the epidemic; jackrabbits did not. No one has studied why, and so we have no scientific information on the failure of jacks to recover. No one at G&F had any thoughts on the matter.

    In Wyoming, jackrabbits are legally classified as “predatory” animals,” along with coyotes, porcupines, raccoons, red foxes, wolves, skunks, and feral cats. Therefore they can be killed by any means. However, in my research and interviews, the primary means of killing jackrabbits since the 1930s epidemic has been shooting. No one reported to me that they were being trapped, and because they are so rare, no one bothers to poison them any more.

    It is likely, and this is speculation on my part, that their rarity in the Greater Yellowstone, at least in this part of it, is attributable primarily to the 1930s tularemia epidemic, with contributing factors of habitat destruction (overgrazing, sagebrush removal) and predation, primarily coyotes.

    I think that’s about as good as we’re going to get.

  33. Sean Sheehan Avatar
    Sean Sheehan

    All of this opinion and so little knowledge, and a little googling is all it would take. The animal being refered to is the the White-tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus townsendii, the largest of North America’s lagomorphs, it does turn white in the winter. Adults can weigh as much ten pounds. While population densities certainly have declined since the early twentieth century, relative to other lagomorphs their population densities are low, even durring the high point of the population cycle. They certianly haven’t dissappeared from the Greater Yellowstone. But if your not a person who spends much time in the sage/grass interface your not likely to see one, having a dog along is the only reliable way, as these animals will hold tight as people walk by. They seem to have been little studied, perhaps because of their low population densities and the difficulty in locating them.

    They are a considered a game animal by the states I am familar with, and as such can not be trapped but can be hunted. Incidental take in furbearer traps is possible but extremely unlikely. Hunting probably has no impact on population levels as hunter effort to acquire such a widely dispersed low density animal would hardly justify the effort it would take to kill one.

    I am not familar with White-tail Jackrabbit presence in the Park, but most of Yellowstone’s higher elevations are forested and the habitat of the the Snowshoe Hare, another low density winter white turning lagomorph. Snowshoe Hare’s have been researched in the Park, and work with the White-tail is something that should be done in the Greater Yellowstone in developing safe guards for the species and giving us a clearer picture of the the animals ecology.

  34. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    In which states is the jack classified as a game animal? As I said above, here in Wyoming they are classified as predatory animals–they prey on grass …


  35. Concerned Avatar

    They are also classified as a non-game animal in Montana

  36. Catbestland Avatar

    I’m with Vicki. It’s a scarry situation when rabbits who are the epitome of prolificity cannot maintain their populations, this is indicative of a very sick planet.

  37. Catbestland Avatar

    Whatever is effecting their populations in YNP must also be effecting them in Colorado as well. When I moved to Montrose about 18 years ago, They were so numerous that I would see them hopping around on the front lawn of the Montrose Airport. They were squished all over the roads. Now you never see them.

  38. Layton Avatar


    How can a person tell the difference between a white tailed jackrabbit and a snowshoe hare??

    Aren’t their habitats pretty different??


  39. Concerned Avatar

    The white tailed jack rabbit is actually quite a bit different looking than the snowshoe, the jack has longer ears, often times tipped in black, it has a larger tail than the snowshoe and differently shaped hind legs, there is a pretty good picture of a white tail on Wikipedia at this link:

  40. Concerned Avatar

    Here is a link to a Summer phase snowshoe

  41. Sean Sheehan Avatar
    Sean Sheehan

    I was wrong about the game animal diffinition, and apologize for that. I am not much of a small game hunter. I have lived in the Northern Rockies(Idaho andWyo.) over 30 years and have never experienced White-tail’s in what I would think of abundant populations. Road kill densities are a very good indcator of realative abundance of rabbits, but must be correlated with population cycles, ie. cotton-tails 9 to 13 years average between highs and lows, but weather
    and other variables can cause shifts in when peaks occur. It would be good to know more about White-tail population dynamic in the Greater Yellowstone.

    Once seen a White-tail is pretty easy to distinguish from other rabbits. Snowshoes are smaller, and occupy high elevation woodland mix. When they run, they run like we would expect a rabbit to run, fast and paniced. White-tails large size makes them appear to run in slow motion, it is commical to watch a dog running full out and loosing ground chasing a rabbit that appears to be going in low gear. My dog will flush them, but just stands and watches them go. Densities where I live appear to be 2 to 4 per sq mile.

  42. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    A little bit away from Yellowstone but about 1 year ago while driving to Grand Canyon and driving at night thru Nevada the Jackrabbits were so thick It was literally like playing jack rabbit pin ball, fortunately I lost and did not actually hit any but not thru their lack of trying. Anyway this was in the middle of March and none of the rabbits were white phase or do I ever recall seeing such in all my life of living in the west. Is the one in Yellowstone a subspecies?

  43. Concerned Avatar

    Animal Diversity Web Lists two Subspecies

    “Two sub-species of Lepus townsendii are recognized with L. t. campanius occuring to the east of the Continental Divide and L. t. townsendii occuring to the west. Though there is little difference between the two, L. t. campanius is slightly larger and some subtle pelage variation is observed (Kim, 1987).”

  44. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    White tail jack rabbits are mostly nocturnal, so not seeing them during the day doesn’t mean they are all gone.
    The black-tailed jack rabbit was the one killed in rabbit drives as late as the 1960s in Idaho. I think the huge populations of black tail jack rabbits that existed until the late 1960s had something to do with use 0f 1080 and other poisons that kept predator numbers down. Foxes were never seen in Idaho when I was hunting jack rabbits as a boy, but foxes are very common here today.
    Habitat for white tail jack rabbits is limited in Yellowstone and the last thing any remaining rabbits need is for some one to start putting radio collars around their necks.

  45. Catbestland Avatar

    What are the smaller ones that have white tails but don’t turn white in the winter? I have a zillion of them living here at just over 8000 ft.

  46. kt Avatar

    Jeff E –

    The rabbits you were dodging were black-tailed jackrabbits – they were quite high in southern ID-Northern Nevada 2003-2005, or so, started dropping off last year, and now are really low.

    White-tailed jackrabbits in the upper Bruneau (especially the Mountain City Ranger District lands just across the border in Nevada), portions of the Owyhee Plateau, Pahsimeroi. BUT you have to be in relatively higher elevation sagebrush and especially low sagebrush. At least that is where it is easiest to come across them. You can tell they are there even if you do not see one – by their big single pale colored pellets.

    And besides sagebrush removal in the 60s and 70s – I wonder if new powerlines running through sagebrush were built amidst Jackson rabbit habitat? Ill-placed eagle perches could be a big problem, too for a small population …

  47. Pronghorn Avatar

    I’m late to this discussion, and no biologist, either, but what about all those decades after wolf extirpation? Can one anticipate a proliferation of coyotes as a result, and increased predation on rabbits? I must add that I found the idea of trapping in YNP amusing–now THERE’S a way to cull tourists!

  48. vicki Avatar

    Well “trapping” is quite a subjective word. There is more than one way to’Trap” an animal. To trap a jackrabbit for foof or fur would be very wasteful. Their fur is not coat quality as their coat is much more wirey than a cotton tail, they are slender and not good eating. (Though rabbits in general have been considered a main stay in some civilizations.)There is simply no market for this rabbit. I am convinced that it has more to do with habitat encroachment.

    Wasn’t there recently an article about trapping bison in the park for slaughter? (I could be wrong, and am just asking). Sorry to be off the subject.

    I am interested in what KT says about sage brush and regaining a foot hold on the regeneration of the plants that so many animals seem to be lacking. If there is such a huge impact on so many animals, why the hell hasn’t anything been done?

  49. vicki Avatar

    What is the latest on the lynx, do you know? I had read that they had few kittens if any this year, that survived. Do you know? I wondered if you had info since they’re closer to your region or the Rockies.
    Don’t lynx predate on rabbits, as a primary food source? I wonder if the smaler numbers you see in Montrose wil effect their progress as well?,

  50. TPageCO Avatar

    Well, I can tell you that there are some of the big jackrabbits with the black-tipped ears in the Madison Valley. Our place is right at the foothills of the T-Roots, and we’ve got some high-elevation sagebrush in pretty good condition that is not very tall (don’t know the sub-species) and my dogs regularly bust them out. Not nearly as often as the little bunnies, but it seems to be a fairly consistent occurrence over the last ten years or so.

  51. Catbestland Avatar


    Here is a link to the CDOW’s linx page. As you can see 2007 was a very bad year as no dens were found that produced any kittens at all. It says that this is due to the fact that the Snoshoe Hare population is way down. I know this is a sore issue with developers in the area because the CDOW Is trying to restrict development in areas that have been designated as Snowshoe Hare habitat. This is in hopes that there will be adequate prey for the Lynx. But it doesn’t look good.

  52. Catbestland Avatar

    Why can’t Lynx eat the little brown bunnies? There are zillions of those.

  53. dbaileyhill Avatar

    I am really surprised to see a large number of comments for rabbits. So much so, that i decided to join in. So here goes….IMO, the fact that rabbits have always been prolific breeders, they have been overlooked as a species in general. Their ability to multiply so quickly may be a major factor as to why they are so scarce. The associative term that almost always follows rabbits is breeding; i think that most are familiar with the phrase, “breeding like rabbits”. My theory is that rabbits have been taken for granted simply because they are a prolific species. {Keep in mind that i have not researched rabbits.} I am merely basing this theory on common beliefs that seem to be the norm where rabbits are concerned. I do not expect to find an overwhelming amount of research and if that is true, we may not be able to determine why they seem to be scarce.
    If it is discovered that rabbits are indeed an indicator species what will that imply? It is a given that our environment and ecosystems are a wreck, but is there something greater just under the surface? I think frogs were proven to be an indicator species. When something, anything has been so common for soooo long, it tends to be overlooked until someone discovers it is gone.
    Crud…. this is another subject that i will have to research in depth. As if i am not busy enough…..I think i will kick my own butt.

  54. Buffaloed Avatar

    Is there more than one kind of jackrabbit in the GYE? Might I have seen a different kind near the Stephens Creek bison trap last year? I saw several at night time in the moonlight and they certainly weren’t cottontails because they were too big and I doubt that they were snowshoe hares because they were at low elevation.

    I’m going back there this week for the same reason I was there last year (to document the buffalo slaughter and visit the Lamar). If I see one I’ll report back unless it is possible that they are a different kind of jackrabbit. They stuck out like a sore thumb.

  55. Cordell Avatar


    The little brown bunnies you are seeing are more than likely mountain cottontail.

  56. Concerned Avatar


    Montana field page does show a range for the black tailed jack rabbit on its page, it shows a SW area that is considered range for them, so I would say it is possible they are around the northern part of Yellowstone.

  57. kt Avatar

    Vicki –

    The problem with sagebrush and any other woody veg is that the public lands livestock industry, and their minions in the Land Grant College “research” programs, don’t like it. They like grass, unimpeded by any woody plants.

    So – to this day – the response to pygmy rabbit, sage grouse, and in the western part of the WTJR range where they are tied to sagebrush communities, etc. declines has been MORE destruction of sagebrush. Oh – it’s too dense – Gotta thin it. Oh -it’s old and “decadent” Gotta herbicide it with Tebuthiuron (being aggressively promoted by Dow Elanco these days). Oh -it’s a “hazardous fuel” – gotta mow it with a giant sagebrush crushed and hacker.

    And all of this disturbance just adds to the fragmentation from the 1960s heyday of sagebrush eradication projects that exists across the landscape – plus fragmentationfrom roads, powerlines, licestock facilities like pipelines and fences.

    The absurdity of this is being played out across Wyoming right now. There we have Oil and Gas tearing the country apart. So what, would you guess, had been one of the primary “mitigation” actions? MOWING and BURNING sagebrush. Responding to sagebrush loss and fragmentation with EVEN MORE fragmentation. Anadarko buying big nasty machines to go out and destroy sagebrush with as “mitigation” “Farming” public lands to try to grow grass and forbs. Why? Because killing sagebrush is favored by ranchers. And the “Game” Depts thoroughly under the Bootheels of the livestock industry – love to kill sagebrush, too, supposedly to promote grass for elk in areas where grazing has done in most of the grass.

    Utah, which actually does not have a lot of sagebrush, is aggressively ripping apart the little that is left in trying to “farm” public lands and grow grass. They claim it is for mule deer, or “sage grouse forb production” or something – at the heart of it is that the livestock industry and their shameless shills in “range science” and other land grant Depts. that spew the “Stewardship” line are servants of the Cattlemen and Woolgrowers. And in Utah (and in much of the West) this insane manipulation mindset has a religious-cultural Man Dominate Earth mindset behind it all.

  58. kt Avatar

    Rachel Carson in Silent Spring (Chapter: Earth’s Green Mantle), writes of Justice William O. Douglas “In his recent book, My Wilderness: East to Katahdin, has told of any appalling example of ecological destruction wrought by the United States Forest Service in Wyoming. Some 10,000 acres of sagelands were sprayed by the Service, yielding to the pressure of the cattlemen for more grasslands”. [Jackson is in the Bridger country].

    Later she talks about 4 MILLION ACRES of “rangelands” sprayed Each. Year. This was 1962! What were the cumulative impacts of this?

    I have never seen a tally of just how much sagebrush was destroyed in this period. You can STILL see the lines where sagebrush was strip-sprayed in the Vale Project of eastern Oregon, or the Jarbidge BLM lands in Idaho – 50 years later! Sage brush has just not come back. Recent research is showing, too, a very very long “recovery” time of sagebrush from fires, too. In contrast to the lies long told by the range science folks, including Al Winward and his range compatriots in the Forest Service and BLM – where any sagebrush exceeding 15% canopy cover is bad, bad, bad and must be subjugated/killed.

    Then, I Googled William O. Douglas and sagebrush, and found this:

    Well worth reading for many reasons.

    BUT – look in Chapter II:

    Douglas writes: “The truth is that a vast bureaucracy now runs the country, irrespective of what party is in power. The decision to spray sagebrush or mesquite trees in order to increase the production of grass and make a cattle baron richer is that of a faceless person in some federal agency. Those who prefer horned owls or coyotes do not even have a chance to be heard”.

    How do we change this situation? The first thing and most immediate thing we have to do is end public lands ranching – and the cattle baron (and woolgrower’s) yoke of oppression on everything to do with Western lands. So that wolves, bighorn sheep and rabbits have a chance.

  59. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Well, we’re working on it, but it is a shame that far too many so-called conservation groups have bought into the “open spaces, working landscapes” nonsense the livestock industry is touting as its own brand of western conservation. The only thing being conserved, of course, is the livestock oligarchy’s political and economic privileges, while the plight of wildlife continues to get worse.

    I see that Defenders is setting up another livestock depredation compensation program in Montana.


  60. Old Timer Avatar
    Old Timer

    Comments on jackrabbits.
    After observing thousands of jackrabbits in MT over the past sixty years, I have come to the conclusion that they require food, also brushy cover to protect them from both land and aerial predators. The brush does not have to be sagebrush as they frequently use rosebushes, willows, patches of buffalo berry, greasewood, buck brush (Symphorocarpus), rubber rabbitbrush etc. and even tall patches of grass. Most of the land we have outside the park has not been peeled like that in the park from excessive elk and bison grazing when the rabbits disappeared there. There were lots of coyotes then also. One of my wildlife researcher friends who has spent much time in YNP says the only jackrabbit he ever saw there was in a 5 acre exclosure which had food and protection from predators. We have lots of jacks in SW MT but probably not as many as I saw in the 40’s and 50’s in SE MT. As others mentioned rabbits are cyclic. Check the 2008 Northern Herd elk count and moose count for bigger problems in YNP.

    Old Timer

  61. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    What are you trying to say there, Old Timer?

  62. Heather Avatar

    Seems to me there is a lot of speculating going on here (outside of my idea) if no one knows for sure why the rabbit is gone.

    I guess I was thinking (or speculating) in terms of surrounding areas as well, since I have been studying trapping and working with those issues. Sorry to offend anyone with my ‘method’. I dont think I represented my idea of trapping affecting the rabbits’ population as fact though, as I said I would have to find out.. Cant say I appreciate the insults. but I suppose it goes with the territory!

  63. Heather Avatar

    I think you’ll have much more fun with Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd Says.. who has just posted. I’ll be interested to see all the factual, unemotional data come out of this one!

  64. Buffaloed Avatar


    I hope you didn’t take anything I said as an insult but you did say this:

    “I know there is limited hunting (BISON) in yellowstone, so there
    may be trapping.”

    This is not true. At least about the bison hunting. You presented that as fact and you were called on it. If I make an incorrect statement and try to pass it off as fact then I feel grateful when someone tells me that I’m wrong and I will admit it and try not to repeat it. I don’t take it as an insult because I was wrong.

    You also accused Concerned of getting defensive but I don’t see it that way. I am not questioning your motives or your values because I share them. But facts do matter.

  65. Concerned Avatar

    Heather Says:
    February 17, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    “I think you’ll have much more fun with Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd Says.. who has just posted. I’ll be interested to see all the factual, unemotional data come out of this one!”

    Good, then I think you will like my response’s to Mr. Fanning post.


    I have absolutely no problem with anybodies positions on issues, the only time I have a problem is when people use speculation and innuendo to try and further their position.

    I am sorry if you felt insulted, that was not my intent…but making a statement as fact, like you did with the hunting is allowed in the park, could actually confuse people who are just starting to look at these issues.

    Confusion is definitely not what anybody needs at this point in time.

  66. Heather Avatar

    (general disclaimer: my opinons are my own. Please not take personal offense to my writings as I am trying to figure this out as much as you are).

    Buffaloed: I certainly appreciate your point of view. And facts do matter. There is a subtle insult right there in your last sentence just above that I will call you on. Very broad statements that I shoot from the hip and all emotion. Have you looked at all my writings? Seen any web references or good points at all? I dont think you have seen them all, but just the past few.

    I did thought about your post for quite awhile tonight. You were trying to be polite but I felt you were dismissisive of me. (I felt quite disenfranchized and disappointed as I finally found a blog I could read valuable information and opinions regarding wildlife.) I will only spend a little time on this personal stuff as I would think the real point of this blog would be for open discussion, brainstorming and education about wildlife and energy issues. (That is why I am here in the first place.)

    For example:
    “I do admire your passion but you should not present your speculation as facts. These are very serious issues and that does no good. It makes the “browns” think that all advocates for wildlife are shooting from the hip when only a few do. I am as emotional about these issues as you are, maybe even more so, but I have to remind myself that I don’t know everything and that it is okay to ask questions or speculate as long as I label it as such but it is not okay to jump to conclusions based on those emotions.
    Now back to sleep, I have a rally for the buffalo to attend at the gates of Yellowstone Park in the morning.”

    1.) Your last comment seems to say you have much more important work to do than talking to me. which I agree. The buffalo work is much more important than this current debate. But still insulting and polarizing nonethless.

    2.) I am quite dismayed that you think I dont take these issues seriously. How do you know who I am? you have no idea. I am not shooting from the hip. my words are taken out of context and turned around many times. When I was writing on the Yellowstone mange blog for example, I used a (?) to question whether mange could be introduced now, as it had been most likely introduced before. (Sorry I do think outside of the box sometimes.) Knowing the current hostility with wolves in Idaho right now, I wouldn’t put it past them, and others noted that same opinion as well. (for those of you reading this, please see this post -Yellowstone mange-if you want to see what was written at that time, I am not going to quote from it now-it would be way too long). That little question mark was in no way the focal point of my blog at that time. But it was used as the main point for criticism by Concerned at that time, as I remember. (no biggie really, but this tension is just not going away) (For some reason, I think that was the beginning of the current character assination on my part. Heaven forbid I bring up trapping!) I have written on this site with web addresses for reference etc. many times, so it is not all from emotion or my hip. And, I do speculate just as many of you do. Of course I am not a Phd, so my opinions are not merely as educated, but could still be valid. So, I really don’t appreciate the subtle insults that have arisen. It is a waste of time to fight me, when you have people like Robert Fanning. He is scary. not me.

    2.)Please see the word ‘may’ in this sentence “I know there is limited hunting (BISON) in yellowstone, so there
    may be trapping.”
    So, what am I called on? This was not presented as fact, but speculation, as you say. I had looked on yellowstones website before I wrote these things. I have read newspaper letters to the editor re: bison hunts, limited elk hunts and people complaining of seeing Bison shot in the park. I know there is illegal/legal trapping in the west, and poaching so I was venturing out to say that perhaps there was trapping of rabbits (all these past 100 years, although I dont think I said that) in addition to all the other circumstances of the rabbits’ demise. There are many websites re: rabbit traps, rabbit hunting etc. currently, but I was really talking about before the 1930/1940 era, which I should have said and I apologize profusely. I am sorry that I was speculating on that issue and people took offense to it. I guess I shouldnt do that or do it somewhere else.

    3.) Concerned and I have been going at it for quite awhile now for some reason. but I really dont see what that has to do with you, unless you are his friend, boss or close relation. There have been many blogs between concerned and I that are not productive or positive in any way. I would go back to where it started but then I would lose my current blog.

    I hope this gets better… perhaps we could start over and unite.. Perhaps I will see you all in Pray Mt for the wolf conference. Thanks for listening.

  67. Heather Avatar

    3 rd paragraph should read ‘I did think’ . silly me.

  68. Heather Avatar

    And I am sure I will get more discredited by not numbering my points correctly . how about some tolerance?

  69. Concerned Avatar


    I have no affiliation with Buffaloed at all, it has been 12 years since I set on the board of directions for a Bison issue organization…and that one was based out of Wyoming. I have done work with BFC as well as Bison Belong and the group I worked with very closely was Bring Back the Bison..

    I think you and I have a misunderstanding based on the fact that sometimes it is difficult to interpret based on the written word on a website.

    Perhaps, starting over would be the best thing.

  70. Heather Avatar

    “I have absolutely no problem with anybodies positions on issues, the only time I have a problem is when people use speculation and innuendo to try and further their position.”

    Perhaps you have had a chance to read my reply to Buffaloed. the main points seems to be about my speculation and innuendo.. and Im really not sure exactly where. the trapping? I dont think my writings are read carefully enough but rather jumped upon quite quickly. (and I need to add more specific information rather than brainstorm out loud. State quite clearly a couple of times that I am not sure and I would look into it, if that is the case. I am new to this blog as well, so I guess I am a beginner.)

    I do think out of the box. I am not a scientist, although wish I was. But I do not have a position that I am trying to further in a fraudulent way. I just speak my mind. I do not have the patience to be careful and secretive re issues that need to be aired. (Many people on this cite to be of the same cloth) My point about trapping was that I have never seen it discussed (in the newspaper, FWP, etc.) as a possible vehicle to a specie’s demise. (The trap doesn’t necessarily know what it is catching. please see for a really good grassroots group on this issue. I wasnt really talking about trapping rabbits for food, as someone had mentioned, although I do know people that eat rabbit.) It is just not discussed. The semantics are different, I apologize for my sloppy thinking/writing. I’ll have to be just a bit more militant.

  71. Heather Avatar

    “I think you and I have a misunderstanding based on the fact that sometimes it is difficult to interpret based on the written word on a website.”
    I agree, could very well be. we come from different worlds I think, not that that is bad, just is.

  72. Buffaloed Avatar

    I think that the biggest issue for me was your insistence that there is hunting in the Park which is not correct. I don’t know you but you did present the “hunting in Yellowstone” idea as fact.

    I DO think bringing up the possibility that trapping was a likely cause of the disappearance of jackrabbits was a valid point. I don’t agree that it was a likely cause and I think that Robert Hoskins gave the most pertinent information on the issue that seems to make the most sense to me.

    This comment, were you said that Concerned had insulted you, is where I started to feel that you were becoming emotional about the issue. I read no insult in what he said. He told you that there was no hunting or trapping in the Park which is true.

    “Concerned mostly, and others: Again, noone is talking about trapping. If there is hunting, there is probably trapping allowed. Trapping is one of those secrets. And Concerned, I will call Yellowtone Park to see if they allow trapping. I KNOW THEY ALLOW HUNTING IN LIMITED AREAS, so they probably allow trapping, but I will find out and let you know. As well, the area for the article re: jack rabbits is not Yellowstone Park only, but surrounding areas. And we all know trapping is allowed almost anywhere. if you have any disagreements with me there, call your FWP and find out. I have just noticed that trapping does not come up as a reason for loss of species, but yet, FWP does not keep track of incidental species lost to trapping.”

    “Where in the heck did you come up with…There is Limited hunting in the park? There has been no legal hunting in the park since the late 60’s when they were culling the elk herds…there is also no trapping allowed in the park, I don’t know who you are getting your information from, but there is not hunting, and no trapping in Yellowstone National Park..”

    “I’ve come up with” limited hunting in the park because I’ve looked up information on Yellowstone website. Why do you insist on insulting me? It will get you no where…”

    This is where I think the discussion went downhill. You could have posted a link to back up this information but instead it appears that you felt like you were being attacked or insulted.

    As far as the mange blog, I think it is possible but not likely that mange was introduced, again, into the GYE but we already know that mange has persisted since it was first introduced many many years ago for the purpose of getting rid of predators, mainly wolves and coyotes. If it is already present then I don’t know why someone would try to introduce it again. I do believe that there have been efforts to infect wolves with distemper or parvo virus but these too were already present from previous outbreaks which were probably not intentional. There have also been illegal poisoning campaigns by individuals to kill wolves and that has been shown to be ineffective because there were only a few wolves killed in this process and there were people convicted of using poisons in an attempt to kill wolves. You don’t hear much about that tactic anymore.

    Let’s start over and I just may see you at the wolf conference. I’m not sure that I can make it though, we’ll see.

  73. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I am planning to attend the wolf conference. Hope to see you there.


  74. vicki Avatar

    Heather, Concerned and Buffaloed,
    I think you have more in common than it might seem.
    Heather, I have been reading this blog for a while now. Buffaloed and Concerned are both very proactive and knowledgable. They are always willing to give some information and insight into the facts of the situation. The are also very outspoken, which is a character trait of good leaders and change makers.
    Concerned and Buffaloed, I think you should look alittle deeper…Heather is not the enemy. Although her early post may have evoked a lot of passion, she was headed in the right direction. She is an ally in the making, mold her Yodas.

    I know that there are so many bright and passionate people who post here. Many of them have invested lifetimes of sweat and heart into saving our environment. Often, their true intentions can get lost in interpretation. They are simply trying to preserve the interity of those trying to aid in environmental preservation.They can be so darn smart and precise in their statements, that it’s hard to see where they come from on an emotional level… but they are also kind and caring.
    I’ve only butted heads here a few times. In the end, I realized that I have the very same goals as the person I was conflicted with. The approach we’d take to get there was just different. Realizing that very thing is the first step to problem solving. Now compromising is the next step.

    I encourage you all to continue brainstorming and to remember…’you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’

  75. vicki Avatar

    Thanks for the link. I’ll be spending some time fishing in your area this summer. I may also try to get some tips from you there!

  76. Catbestland Avatar


    That will be great. You will love the Gunnison River Gorge at the north end of the Black Canyou of the Gunnison. I know some great trails into this secluded area. There is a place called the Gunnison River Pleasure Park that is famous for gold medal trout fishing. However, there is a canned Buffalo hunt very near the area that I would love to put out of business.

    When and where is the wolf conference? I would love to come.

  77. JT Avatar

    Ialso remembers seeing lots of jacrabbits in North Park, Colorado while doing research in the early 80’s. Driving at night on State Highway 125 was rabbit dodgeball. Golden Eagles were extremely common along the power lines back then (this is another species I see alot less of now than in the past) I have been in Idaho for 20 years now, and notice less and less jacks. I work 3 bird dogs in the sage quite often and seldom turn up jacks like I used to. If there are rabbits to be found, these dogs will get em up.

  78. Linda Hunter Avatar
    Linda Hunter

    Interesting posts. . I always learn somthing from these and Vicki thanks for putting disagreements in perspective. . . they do spark us to look up stuff though, and expand our knowledge base. One comment about Lynx. . here in Washington State they offically exist in certain areas where the eleveation is right and the main prey is plentiful . . the snowshoe hare. However, I have been told over and over by knowledgable people that the only place you can find them is above 3,000 feet. . which doesn’t explain to me that I have documented snowshoe hare tracks as low as 1800 feet and had a lynx walk in front of me many miles from where lynx are supposed to be. It give me great hope to realize that animals in their quest to survive can vary their habits faster than we can find out about it. Fortunately tracking lynx in snow is not that easy unless you know specifically what you are looking for. It isn’t alway a good thing for people to know what lives near them unless they have a wider understanding of the ecosystems. Like skunks . . some live under my neighbors shed and as long as those people don’t know they are there, the skunks are perfectly safe.

  79. AJ Avatar

    Just briefly reading thru some of this post which I found a little confusing….maybe I’ll add to it!

    I use to trap: My thoughts are who would want to trap jack rabbits? and for what reason? and who would want to spend that much time trapping them into extinction?

    I believe I’d take a peek in a different direction unless you are trying to “create” a problem.

  80. Heather Avatar

    Sorry everyone: one last time and then I’m done with this can of worms. It really comes back to me as I was not very clear to begin with. lesson learned.

    AJ: with this many people on here with different and similar interests, I am sure it is confusing. Just imagine if we were all in one room together!

    We aren’t going in this direction at all. (It was mere speculation on my part re: trapping in yellowstone, but more so surrounding areas and perhaps Teton) My point about trapping was more from an incidental point of view, not that it was deliberate plan to exterminate rabbits via trapping, (although it seems there was a strong desire to exterminate them in other ways ie clubbing as someone mentioned in the blog above.) for example, a trap does not necessarily know what it is trapping. Yes, there are different kinds of traps, snares, lures, bait etc for particular animals, but many times traps catch the unintended. So, perhaps some traps caught some rabbits.

    No quite sure what you mean by trying to create a problem. The problem has been had and we have mended our ways. Maybe you did not read the whole thing…I know I couldn’t at this point.

  81. Heather Avatar

    Thanks Vicki. much appreciated. I think I’ll walk my dogs now!

    Just here to learn really, and ya’ll seem to have it down.

  82. SAP Avatar

    A report from the field: my young kelpie has been having a grand time chasing white-tailed jacks here in the Madison Valley. We jumped at least three yesterday — they’re huge! They came out of tall willow patches down in the Madison floodplain.

    We have also seen three at a time eating hay in a corral with some sheep. They usually come in after dark. Some have been climbing up on a flatbed trailer to eat big bales. That’s at 6700′, about 30 miles away from West Yellowstone.

    We also regularly see them on the bunchgrass-alluvial fan country right around Ennis. They do seem to like to hunker down next to a sagebrush — the little drifts that form around sage are probably good thermal cover. But they’re far more abundant, it seems, down in the willows.

    Moral of the story is, white-tailed jacks aren’t gone from THIS part of Greater Yellowstone.

    PS: The kelpie is now learning that we DON’T chase bunnies — although it was good exercise, it looked like a great way for him to run into traffic, or into a moose, or into a wolf, so we’re working on not doing that anymore. So far, so good.

  83. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    It appears that you’re seeing more jacks there than I am here. Alive, I’m seeing them primarily on the G&F East Fork Wildlife Habitat Management Area near Dubois in the sagebrush flats and slopes. No livestock or livestock management there. Dead, I’m seeing them squashed on US Hwy 26 running through the Reservation, coming off sagebrush flats and slopes south of the highway heading toward irrigated hayfields. There are limited livestock on these flats and slopes on this side of the Reservation. Many more cattle on the irrigated hayfields this time of the year.

    Geologically, the areas where I’m mostly seeing them are on the old glacial moraines that encroach upon the Wind River. I have never seen one, dead or alive, in willows, although it makes sense that they’d go to running water from time to time.

    Here on Dry Creek where I live, I’m inundated with cottontails, but have seen no jacks.

    I am at a loss, other than what I’ve already reported, to understand why they haven’t recovered to previous numbers in the Upper Wind River Basin.


  84. SAP Avatar

    RH – interesting observations. To clarify, the willows where we find jacks are small linear stands. The willows are growing in boggy spots and along old ditches, but they’re in a larger matrix of alluvial till and grass — not big “moosey” willow stands.

  85. vicki Avatar

    I spend a lot of time in North Park, and haven’t seen many rabbits at all. I do see a huge number of ground squirels. I do see eagles too. It’s kind of odd not seeing rabbits (jacks or otherwise), especially since they were so numerous. I wonder what the connection is between the two areas, and the shortage of jacks.

  86. vicki Avatar

    That they do…
    I spent a lot of time recently on the look out for bobcats. That was difficult enough, much less lynx. I did take the time to do a bit of research, and learned a little about tracks. Who knew how fascinating a foot print could be.
    Now I see why you are so involved in tracking.

  87. vicki Avatar

    I’ve been through the area, but I haven’t really experienced it. I look forward to going. My entire family are avid anglers. I too disagree with canned hunts. No sport, no point.
    I’ll look for you here, and let you know when heading your way. I appreciate the help.
    Take care.

  88. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Yes, I see what kind of willow stands you’re talking about. One would be more likely to see jacks in or around these narrow, linear willow stands than in typical moose habitat. However, these areas are mostly irrigated hayfields around here, which have a glacial, morainal base from the old Wind River Range glaciers that pushed a long way out of the mountains.

    As long as I’ve been here, I’ve never seen jacks in hayfields, and I ride daily through many of the fields around here. Clearly, however, they’re crossing the roads from the sagebrush to the hayfields, and occasionally vehicles get them. We do have healthy coyote and raptor populations, however.

    Jacks are simply rare here.

    It would be interesting to know if the tularemia epidemic we had here in the 30s extended up into Montana. Disease is a good deal more relevant to wildlife history and the distribution and management of current populations in the Greater Yellowstone than a lot of people allow for.


  89. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    So after many comments, I guess we can say that jackrabbits are not gone from the greater Yellowstone, at least at the lower elevations which always were better habitat for jacks. However their numbers are down, and it’s not clear when this happened.

    Is this agreed?

  90. vicki Avatar

    Yes. I agree. Now what though? How do you research something like this? Would anyone even try?
    After reading this blog for a while, I am still left wondering who decides what research to do? Who funds it? How do we impact those choices? What becomes of the information once it’s gathered?

  91. SAP Avatar

    Vicki – excellent questions. I think this is a neat thread because it started out being about jackrabbits, but it’s now turning toward an object lesson:

    Science is not value-free or value neutral.

    We don’t have unlimited resources, so someone has to make choices. How much do we care about jackrabbits? How much do we care about knowledge of jackrabbits?

    How much we care about jackrabbits or knowledge of jackrabbits will determine whether we just accept that it may be cyclical, or whether we decide to pour resources into figuring this thing out.

    Do we do rigorous experiments (Dr. Berger suggested a reintroduction), or is it enough to gather anecdotes from various places and maybe just be content with saying that they do better at lower elevations?

    It depends on what we care about. We have limited resources.

    Thus, from the get-go — deciding what to study, and how rigorously — science is not value neutral. It’s a good lesson to learn.

    As for WHO decides, well, in Yellowstone it would be the people who give out research permits. Beyond that, it’s funders, which could be anyone from Congress to the National Science Foundation to rich people who love wildlife.

    How do THEY make up their minds? Well, at NSF they may have some more sophisticated way of putting it, but they too fund what they care about.

  92. Buffaloed Avatar


    Thanks for the post this morning. I had intended on replying to it earlier but things here in West Yellowstone are busy and there are a lot of things I had to catch up on with people here at BFC so I didn’t post.

    I think that Heather, Concerned and I have a great deal in common and I think we all want to see the same thing. I can sometimes get a little diverted from the subject at hand but I wanted to make sure I was understood. I apologize if anyone might have been offended or anything.

    I’m going to Gardiner tomorrow and I intend to take some time tomorrow night to look specifically for jackrabbits in the same place where I saw them last year. I don’t know if I will be able to positively identify them as white tailed jackrabbits or black tailed but I will study up tomorrow to make sure.

    FYI I saw two pronghorn near the junction of highways 191 and 287 today. This is the first time that I have seen them here this time of year. They were trying to join a group of buffalo who were surrounding a pile of hay but they were too skittish to get any hay. One of them had a slightly injured leg but it could still run like hell when it wanted to. I hope they both make it through the winter but they will have a very difficult time unless they can get some food. The snow is much too deep for them to make it until spring.

  93. vicki Avatar

    That helps to know. It puts some perspective on things. I knew that putting a monetary value on science would be difficult, but the rest, well it was vague.
    Maybe we need to spend more money lobbying Hollywood, or the folks with 6-7 figure incomes.

    I was not offended. I’ve just “been there”. I meant what I said, the info you and concerned have offered me and others makes a difference. I appreciate it.
    Good luck finding the jacks, let us know. I’ll cross my fingers for the pronghorn. It makes me wonder how it was injured. nature is such a mystery.

    Take care all. And SAP, thanks again for the info.

  94. SAP Avatar

    Buffaloed – distinguishing black-tailed from white-tailed evidently is fairly easy this time of year, according to FWP’s field guide: black-tailed jacks don’t change color in winter.

  95. Heather Avatar

    Buffaloed: did you see any jacks – white or black in Gardiner??? it is now the 20th..let us good or bad news.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan