Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Three major species of hares (jackrabbits) occur in North America. These of the genus Lepus and are represented primarily by the blacktail jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), the whitetail jackrabbit (L. townsendii), and the snowshoe hare (L. americanus). Other members of this genus include the antelope jackrabbit (L. alleni) and the European hare (L. europaeus). Hares have large, long ears, long legs, and a larger body size than rabbits.

Whitetail jackrabbit. Photo by Ronny Bluher, Creative Commons.
Blacktail jackrabbit. Photo by Jessie Eastland, Creative Commons.
Snowshoe hare in winter. Photo by National Park Service.

The whitetail jackrabbit is the largest hare in the Great Plains, having a head and body length of 18 to 22 inches (46 to 56 cm) and weighing 5 to 10 pounds (2.2 to 4.5 kg). It is brownish gray in summer and white or pale gray in winter. The entire tail is white.

The blacktail jackrabbit, somewhat smaller than its northern cousin, weighs only 3 to 7 pounds (1.3 to 3.1 kg) and is 17 to 21 inches (43 to 53 cm) long. It has a grayish-brown body, large black- tipped ears, and a black streak on the top of its tail.

The snowshoe hare is 13 to 18 inches (33 to 46 cm) long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kg). It has larger feet than the whitetail and blacktail jackrabbits. The snowshoe turns white in winter and is a dark brown during the summer. Its ears are smaller than those of the other hares.

The antelope jackrabbit is 19 to 21 inches (48 to 53 cm) long and weighs 6 to 13 pounds (2.7 to 5.9 kg). Its ears are extremely large and its sides are a pale white.

The European hare is the largest of the hares in the Northeast, weighing 7 to 10 pounds (3.1 to 4.5 kg) and reaching 25 to 27 inches (63 to 68 cm) in size. This nonnative hare is brownish gray year-round.  

Legal Status

Jackrabbits are considered non-game animals in most states and are not protected by state game laws. A few states protect jackrabbits through regulations. Most states in which snowshoe hares occur have some regulations protecting them. Consult local wildlife agencies to determine the legal status of the species before applying controls. 

Species Range

The whitetail jackrabbit is found mainly in the north central and northwestern US and no farther south than the extreme north central part of New Mexico and southern Kansas.

Distribution of whitetail jackrabbits in North America. Image by PCWD.

The blacktail jackrabbit is found mainly in the southwestern US and the southern Great Plains, and no farther north than central South Dakota and southern Washington. 

Distribution of blacktail jackrabbits in North America. Image by PCWD.

Snowshoe hares occupy the northern regions of North America, including Canada, Alaska, the northern continental US, and the higher elevations as far south as New Mexico. Antelope jackrabbits are found only in southern Arizona, New Mexico, and western Mexico. The European hare is found only in southern Quebec, New York, and other New England states. 

Distribution of snowshoe hares in North America.
Image by PCWD

Voice and Sounds

Rabbits generally are silent, but can emit a high pitched squeal when they are in distress.

Tracks and Signs

Tracks of rabbits typically are found in snow or fine soil and present a 1-1-2 pattern. Droppings of rabbits often are easy to identify as bunches of round balls.


Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by James Knight (Montana State University).