By John Celock
A legislator in Wyoming is pushing legislation that would designate an official state creature.
A bill offered by Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) would designate the jackalope as the state’s creature. The bill is a continuation of a several year effort to have the mythical creature, a staple of Wyoming lore, designated as the state’s official creature.
“They are native to Wyoming. They have grown to be a state symbol alongside our state tree, state bird, state grass, state dinosaur,” Zwonitzer said. “We have jackalope days in Douglas. We use it for tourism and economic development. They are used for memorabilia. It is part of Wyoming history and Wyoming folklore.”
The jackalope – a jackrabbit – with antlers first started popping up in Wyoming establishments, around Douglas, roughly 70 years ago, according to Zwonitzer. He said that local taxidermists have been making more of the mounts to hang in the state. He estimates that at least 100 are mounted in bars, lodges and restaurants around the state.
“It is a sign of pride to have one next to the elk, moose and deer,” he said.
Zwonitzer said that the process to have the jackalope designated as an official state symbol has been going on for at least a decade and has been championed by various legislators over the years.
The original proposal sought to designate the jackalope as Wyoming’s mythical creature, but it is being changed to have the designation be state creature or potentially the state critter. Zwonitzer said the change is to continue the lore that the jackalope is alive and well in Wyoming.
“They are rumored to be all over the place and to attack at night,”
States nationally have been looking to increase the amount of state symbols on the books. Zwonitzer said that while some have criticized the practice, he can see a place for legislation like his.
“There can be the argument that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and our times. But it is nice to have bills to bring some levity to the process,” he said. “After a difficult bill you can talk about jackalope stories for a bit.”