As the city of Edmonton continues to grow, one species of wildlife is also expanding: white-tailed jackrabbits.
You may have noticed more of the animals hopping – or standing completely still as if frozen in time – around town.
“This little animal has done quite well with us,” Dr. John Wood, dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at King’s University, said.
“They are a prairie animal that has actually moved into the city.”
The white-tailed jackrabbit is a species of hare found in western North America. It’s also known as the prairie hare and the white jack.
Wood has been studying the animals for years.
In 1992, it was estimated the hare population in Edmonton was less than 500. Nearly 25 years later, it’s now hovering at around 2,500.
“There are a handful of animals that actually do very well with us,” Wood explained. “They are culture followers. They’re urban adaptors.”
The research has found the urban population of hares is much higher than outside the city.
“When we went out into the countryside, the numbers were 1/100th of that – much, much lower – and that was surprising to us.”
So, what could be drawing the hares into the city?
“Now you have what’s called, essentially a ‘predator shadow.’ There are more places to hide, there are more places to disperse to and there’s certainly more food and a wide variety of food plants,” Wood said.
According to the city, there has not been an increase in complaints about wild hares.
It also said there is no correlation between the jackrabbit and the coyote population because hares are not a primary food source for coyotes.