Long Distance Movements of Black-Tailed Jackrabbits

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Journal of Wildlife Management







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During an intensive demographic study of black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) in Curlew Valley, Utah, USA, we noted unexpected large displacements among 30% of our study animals. Although understanding movement patterns-especially long-distance movements-should be an essential element for programs studying and managing wild populations, reports of such events among jackrabbits are rare. We describe aspects of long-distance movements within 1 jackrabbit population. We placed radiotransmitters on 393 black-tailed jackrabbits and accumulated 28,945 animal-days of data during 5 study periods between 1979 and 1984. In 146 instances, we documented hares moving ≥5.0 km, typically within 2-10 days. Although 3 hares moved ≥25 km (longest = 35 km), 63% of such movements were ≤10 km. Long movements occurred in all seasons but on an animal-day basis were most frequent February-April (24%) and October-December (52%). Vectors between north and east comprised 66% of long-distance movements documented between March and May. However, 65% of such movements during summer and 83% during fall and winter involved vectors between south and west. These movements appeared to represent migrations to and from traditional wintering areas. Despite the magnitude of these movements, the Curlew Valley jackrabbit population appears to be demographically closed, but if timing of movements varies among sex and age classes, demographic analyses on geographic units that do not encompass the entire valley could be affected. Efforts to mitigate jackrabbit depredations on growing crops or stored forages should incorporate information about seasonal movement patterns as well as the areas potential management programs might affect.