Animal #42 — Black-tailed Jackrabbit

lepus californicus

Tuesday, April 30, 2002 — 8:20 pm

Pueblo County, Colorado — Lake Pueblo State Park

It was dark but I was reluctant to leave. I knew I may never again get a chance to wander around Colorado. I decided to drive the park roads one last time in hopes of finding a Poor-will. I drove along the road that runs along the north shore of the reservoir, then pulled into the Juniper Breaks camping area where I’d seen the Juniper Titmouse two hours earlier.

I circled the picnic area loop and headed back toward the main road. A huge hare ambled across the road in front of the car and stopped in the roadside grass at the edge of a huge field of very short, dry grass. I stopped my car about eight feet away. I could tell it was a jackrabbit by its size and the length of its ears, but I couldn’t see the tail in the dark. (It was off to the side out of the beams of my headlights.) It had its ears laid back along its back.

I said to it out the open window, “OK, if you’re going to stay there …” I pulled up about 15 feet to a side road and made a U-turn. I stopped with my headlights shining directly on the jackrabbit. It looked back at me over its shoulder, then ambled forward into the field out of the light. I could see that it stopped again, so I turned on my high beams. Again it ambled forward until it was out of the light and began grazing.

It was at least twice the size of a Cottontail with huge black-tipped ears. The fur was brownish-gray (as much as I could tell in the dark). When it moved away in lazy hops from the light, I could plainly see that the top of its tail was black.

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