Date of this Version
Great Plains Research 21 (Spring 2011):89-94
White-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) populations in the Northern Plains have been in a general decline for the past decade or longer. A suggested reason for this population decline was reduced body condition of individual jackrabbits due to habitat changes. In order to evaluate body condition, we determined the kidney fat index of 314 white-tailed jackrabbits harvested in 44 counties throughout South Dakota. We removed and weighed kidneys and all perirenal fat associated with the kidneys from collected jackrabbits. We measured kidney weight to determine times of high metabolic activity as indicated by an increase in mass. Body condition was assessed by measuring the amount of kidney fat within each collected jackrabbit. Seasonal fluctuations were evident in average kidney weight and kidney fat for both sexes of white-tailed jackrabbits. The kidney fat index in both male and female peaked in winter and was near 0% in summer. We believe that changes in body condition as indicated by the kidney fat index were related to the onset of breeding season rather than availability of food resources.