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Rabbit Drives

Depression difficulties in some areas of western Nebraska included the overabundance of rabbits. The Nebraska State Historical Society Library/Archives includes a copy of Kimball County, Nebraska, 100 Years, 1888-1988, which reported:

"In the early thirties the rabbits were so plentiful in Kimball County that on looking out over the prairie it looked like the ground was moving. They were becoming very destructive to crops. It was figured that 2000 jack rabbits would eat as much feed as 175 sheep or 35 head of cattle. . . .

"The jack rabbits were so numerous that the county found it necessary to put a bounty of 3 cents on each pair of rabbit ears turned in, later raising the bounty to 5 cents.

"Rabbit hunts were set up by various organizations and farmers, there would be an ad in the [Western Nebraska] Observer reading such as 'Rabbit Hunt -- All Hunters Welcome,' date, time and location shown. Hunters would gather at the site and usually surround a section of land using only shot guns, and they would start walking toward the center of the section driving rabbits in before them, there would usually be a truck or pickup to each side to pick up slain rabbits, the ears were removed, pelts sold to local fur buyers who paid 3 cents for blacktails and five cents for white tails, they received so many that the price later went to 1 l/2 cents for white tails and _ cent for black. Carcasses were sold by the dealers to either mink or Fox farms.

"In October 1934 Cheyenne County paid bounty on 11,000 pair of ears, the odor while counting them was reported to be very unpleasant. . . .

"In December 1934 Kimball County paid bounty on 100,000 pair of ears, after a large hunt consisting of 800 men in a drive over nine sections. One drive sponsored by the American Legion, Lions, Fire Department and V.F.W. of 60 men filled two bushel baskets with ears.

"By March 1935 the county figured the hunting of rabbits had saved enough food for 1450 cows and 7000 sheep."

(August 1998)



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