If you’ve ever lingered in a truck stop west of the Colorado border, you’ve seen one.
At first, it looks like a bunny – that is until you see the antlers.
It’s the elusive jackalope, an American legend and celebrated gift-shop item. And if one lawmaker has his way, it could someday become the “official mythical creature” of the state of Wyoming.
State Rep. Dave Edwards, R-Douglas, introduced HB4, a bill that would give the horned hare the official designation. And although the bill did not make it this year, Edwards says he’ll likely continue his quest to honor the state’s big-horn bunny in a future session.
Edwards sees the bill as a preservation matter: The measure, he said, was intended to offer protection to the jackalope, which originated in his hometown of Douglas, WY.
“The jackalope was initially discovered in Douglas, WY, by a taxidermist named Herrick,” he said. In fact, he said, the city of Douglas holds the copyright on the creature.
But the bill was more than simply an effort to honor a hometown hero. Edwards said the measure was written to protect the rarely seen rabbit.
“Wyoming had this problem. Texas tried to steal the bucking horse from Wyoming as a symbol. We have it on our plates, it’s a state symbol,” he said. “So I wanted to protect the jackalope from some other states. There are other states who claim to have some of these.”
Because of the copyright, “there was some protection,” he said, “but this would have provided more.”
You might have thought Edwards would have honored a different mythical creature. As a member of the Moose Club he could have been expected to choose, say, Bullwinkle. But Edwards says no.
“They (moose) are not quite as plentiful in this state as jackalopes,” he said. “They’re mostly up around the Yellowstone Park area.”
Edwards isn’t sure how many other states have official mythical creatures. But Wyoming won’t be joining them, at least not this year.
Edwards said the bill passed in the House and in a Senate Committee. However, when it made it to the Senate floor, the bill didn’t even get a hearing.
The bill might be reintroduced next year, but Edwards is considering changing it to name the jackalope the official “legendary creature,” rather than “mythical creature.”
“That seemed to be the big objection over there (in the Senate),” he said. “They thought mythical meant it didn’t exist.”
Meanwhile, until the next attempt to save the precious prong-horned pooka, it may be the best place to see them is in your local truck stop.
“They got ‘em in Wyoming truck stops,” he said. “That’s true.”
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor