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Fargo’s urban prairie: Jackrabbits overrun city neighborhood

FARGO -- Close to 40 jackrabbits huddled against the cold Tuesday afternoon, looking like snow-covered hillocks rising from an open field. Nearby, Joe Kovacs was playing fetch with his dog, Winston -- a Shih Tzu-Cavalier mix, about the same size ...

Jackrabbits
Jackrabbits gather Tuesday in Brandt Crossing Park on 33rd Avenue South in Fargo. (The Forum/David Samson)

FARGO - Close to 40 jackrabbits huddled against the cold Tuesday afternoon, looking like snow-covered hillocks rising from an open field.
Nearby, Joe Kovacs was playing fetch with his dog, Winston - a Shih Tzu-Cavalier mix, about the same size as the 2-foot-long jackrabbits, also known as hares.
“They’re just kind of cool,” 24-year-old Kovacs said as the white-furred animals sat, and occasionally scurried across the snow. “But I could see how that would be annoying if they were in your yard.”
These droves of hares have invaded a newly developed neighborhood along 33rd Avenue South, west of 45th Street, and some residents are not pleased by what they consider a nuisance.
“The front yard is full of droppings,” said Darren Schneibel, who sees hares settle down in his yard at night. “They eat the grass, and they just kill it.”
Fargo police have received several complaints about the unsettling number of hares. But at this point, the city has no solution, Lt. Joel Vettel said.
“Typically, we don’t deal with wild animals per say, especially if they’re not a safety concern,” he said.
Ginny Naujokas, 67, said her neighbors gripe about the hares damaging their gardens. In her yard, she has plastic guards around the trunks of saplings to protect against gnawing.
“There’s probably an overabundance of (hares). I mean, we can see them out the bedroom window,” Naujokas said. “But I think they are beautiful.”
Police do not endorse poisoning the hares, and trying to catch the sizable animals in live traps seems problematic, Vettel said.
Hunting is illegal in Fargo, except through the city’s bow-hunting program for managing turkey and deer populations. For jackrabbits to become part of the program, the Fargo City Commission would have to take action, Vettel said.
Schneibel, 26, said the packs of hares do appear in the summer, but their ranks seem to swell in the winter. He said they seek out quiet spots and hop away when people come close.
On Tuesday, bunches of hares were gathered next to the dog run in Brandt Crossing park.
“That’s definitely a normal thing,” Schneibel said. “They’re there all the time.”

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