If you’d venture to tell someone from Douglas, Wyoming, that jackalopes don’t exist, they’d probably look at you like you were the crazy one.
That’s because jackalopes are to Douglas what aliens from outer space are to Roswell, New Mexico, and weather-predicting groundhogs are to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
In Douglas, seeing a jackalope (a deer-antlered jackrabbit) is commonplace, considering that a taxidermist from there is credited for creating the first whimsical creature nearly 75 years ago.
Taxidermist Douglas Herrick is known for first physical portrayal of the legendary jackalope in 1939 when he mounted antlers on a stuffed jackrabbit and exhibited it at the town’s LaBonte Hotel. Today, a 13-foot jackalope silhouette stands on a hillside near town and each June Douglas pays homage to the creature with a Jackalope Days celebration.
Just about everywhere you look in Douglas, you’ll find a rendering of an antlered jackrabbit.
In late January, Wyoming lawmakers resurrected a bill first introduced by a late state legislator from Douglas that would designate the jackalope as “the official mythical creature of Wyoming.”
A version of current House Bill 149 was initially brought forward by Dave Edwards in 2005 when he represented District 6 in the Wyoming House. The measure easily passed the House but didn’t reach the Senate in time for a vote.
Edwards, who died Jan. 19 at age 75 after suffering the effects of a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, never reintroduced his bill.
As a tribute to Edwards—and his beloved jackalope—members of the Wyoming House and Senate appear on track to honor both with a bill officially known as “The David Richard Edwards Memorial Act.” It breezed through the House (48-10) and awaits action in the state Senate.
Taxidermist Herrick received a proclamation from Gov. Ed Herschler in 1985 naming Wyoming the jackalope’s official home. Herrick died in 2003 at 82 years of age.
“I think it was kind of a joke,” Herrick’s taxidermist son, Mike, said of his father’s creation. “A lot of taxidermists fool around. But he didn’t know they would get so popular. I know he didn’t know.”
And yes, Mike Herrick continues to produce some of the country’s finest jackalope work at his Douglas taxidermy shop.
“I have a lot of people come in here thinking that they are real,” Herrick said. “They ask me where they can go to see one. I tell them that the bucks are hard to find, but I can show them a bunch of does.”