During a normal winter, there are often a couple weeks of sub-zero weather. This usually happens sometime in January or February. Last year and the year before, this cold snap didn't come, but we sure got it this year. As I write this, we've had a week of nighttime temperatures below zero. Today's high was a sunny -3, and tonight the mercury will dip to twenty below (-20 F). It's definitely time to bundle up when you go outside, with a warm stocking cap to protect those ears.
The extra cold weather will help the trees to go dormant, which may be good if you make maple syrup. If spring comes early and there's a good thaw by the end of February, the maples trees may start running sap. I always figured a solid cold spell was a good thing in the long run, though I might not appreciate it while shivering in the short run.
A conversation about Jackrabbits came up when a friend who had just returned from Colorado told me he has seen a couple while there. His description of them was very good, saying they barely resemble their smaller cousins, the cottontails.
Jackrabbits are quite tall when they sit on their haunches, and they look much taller when those huge, long ears stand up high. They look fast and they are--probably the speediest of all the rabbits.
A large, White-tailed jackrabbit may weight 8 to 10 pounds, which is twice or 3 times as much as a cottontail. Jacks live on the treeless plains and prairies of the far Midwest and the Southwestern states. I have seen them in North and South Dakota and in Western Minnesota, but I've never seen one in Wisconsin. That kinda surprises me when I consider all the tromping around I've done in southern Wisconsin. My younger days were often as not spent hunting, hiking, and birding. I spent many enjoyable hours tracking over treeless hills, following the fresh tracks of a Red fox in new white snow. That was forty years ago, and I haven't seen a Jackrabbit around here yet. Especially strange when you consider there's actually a hunting season for them.
The White-tailed jackrabbit is another one of the prairie species that disappears when its habitat is drastically changed. The vast numbers of wild creatures that depend on open grasslands for survival have dwindled in my lifetime. No longer can I watch a short-eared owl hunt as she flies low over a grassy marsh. It's been years since I've heard the sharp, melodic whistle of an Upland plover. It's been two decades since I've seen a family of young Burrowing owls, or seen the bright yellow breast of a Dickcissel. These and many others have disappeared from the Southern Wisconsin landscape. I'm glad to have my memories of them.
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