Ample amounts of cover, such as dense sagebrush, juniper thickets, thick forb, and riparian vegetation, as well as forest edge habitats.
Juicy, dark meat. Good to excellent table fare.
Moderate populations, statewide.
LICENSE, TAGS AND PERMITS NEEDED
Valid Idaho hunting license.
Rabbits and hares are members of a group of mammals known as lagomorphs, which are found throughout the world. Harvest of lagomorphs for both regulated and commercial use is widespread. Rabbit and hare hunting date back thousands of years in Europe. Today they remain the mainstay of regulated hunting in many European countries. In much of North America, the eastern cottontail is still an extremely popular game animal.
Rabbits and hares are largely distinguished by the condition in which their young are born. Rabbits have altricial young, meaning they are born essentially helpless, with no hair, and are blind. In contrast, hares produce precocial young, which are fully haired, with open eyes, and can move shortly after birth.
Idaho has 2 species of rabbits and 3 species of hares. Mountain or Nuttall’s cottontails, pygmy rabbits, and snowshoe hares are classified as upland game animals. Two other hare species, white-tailed jackrabbit and black-tailed jackrabbit, are classified as predatory wildlife in Idaho.
Rabbits and hares have potential for extremely high rates of annual reproduction. Annual production for most hare species is relatively constant at approximately 10 young/female. In comparison, cottontails vary in annual production of young from approximately 10 to 35/female. Snowshoe hare reproductive output is more variable than most hares, reproducing less than 4 times a year, with litter size fluctuating from 1 to 14.
Correspondingly, lagomorphs can also experience high rates of annual mortality. Predation and disease which result from extreme fluctuations in environmental factors, and exhaustion of available plant resources, are primary agents of mortality. While lagomorphs are adaptable and suited to a wide variety of habitats and ecological conditions, their annual mortality rates can approach 90% in some populations.
Rabbits and hares make up the base of many predator-prey systems. Their intermediate size and abundance put them in a position to support a community of small- to medium-sized predators. Some hare populations can influence reproductive success of their predators, which include bobcats, coyotes, and golden eagles.
Mountain cottontails range throughout much of southern Idaho and western Clearwater Region. Cottontails can occupy a diverse range of habitats, including disturbed areas and transitional habitat zones. In Idaho, mountain cottontails prefer habitats with ample amounts of brush and rocky cover, such as dense sagebrush, juniper thickets, thick forb and riparian vegetation, as well as forest edge habitats. Both cottontails and pygmy rabbits utilize burrows throughout the year for protection and parturition.
Snowshoe hares occupy all of Idaho except the Snake River Plain and Owyhee Uplands. Due to extent of their range, snowshoe hares occupy a breadth of habitat types and climate regimes, but mostly occur in forested ecosystems that provide adequate escape cover and forage. Over the majority of their distribution, snowshoe hares have white pelage (fur) during winter, and molt to brown pelage during summer. Recent evidence suggests changing climate, in the form of decreased snow persistence, could impact winter-coat polymorphic species such as snowshoe hares, as they may be more visible to predators