Douglas, Wyoming (Circa) --- When you enter the town of Douglas in eastern Wyoming you’re greeted by a giant statue of an animal that looks like a jack rabbit with antlers. It's called a jackalope and it's basically Wyoming's big foot.
"The story of the jackalope is a local gentleman back in the 1920s was looking for something to sell to tourists," explained Carl Strode, owner of White Wolf Saloon in Douglas. "They had an abundance of jackrabbits and an abundance of prong horned deers. Spike horn deer I should say. They just came up with the idea of putting them together and selling them to tourists."
In the 1940s, the city of Douglas proclaimed itself as the “Jackalope Capital of the World" and it's something they've lived up to ever since. For the people of Douglas, the jackalope isn't just a cuter big foot. It's been an important asset to their local economy for over seventy years.
"They advertise the jackalope all over the country and people really really wanna come and find out the story of the jackalope," Strode said.
In 2005, the legislature of Wyoming considered a bill to make the jackalope the state's official mythological creature. It passed the House 45–12, but died in Senate. Ten years later in 2015, three state representatives put forth the jackalope proposal again, this time as House Bill 66. It again passed the House, but died in a Senate committee. One of the co-sponsors, Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R), said he's not discouraged by the fact the bill hasn't passed yet and has plans to re-introduce the bill every year until it passes.
"There's more than enough support for it to pass, the problem is time," Zwonitzer said. "Obviously, it's not a priority so we want to make sure we get all the important work done each session and it's been pretty busy for us here in Wyoming and last I introduced the bill it wasn't a matter of people voting it down, we just never had time to vote on it so it died. I think in the next session we'll finally be able to get it done."
Wyoming is the 10th largest state by land mass, but it has the lowest population of all 50 states with less than 570,000 people. Zwonitzer says it's what makes the entire state of Wyoming feel like a small town and why the legend of the jackalope is such an important symbol of the state's spirit.
"When you come to Wyoming, everyone you meet is going to greet you with a smile and welcome you here with open arms. The jackalope may seem silly to people living on the coasts but for us here in Wyoming, it's a way to just have fun and give tourists something special they'll remember. Something to bring a little joy and magic to their lives."
The Douglas Chamber of Commerce issues thousands of jackalope hunting licenses every year to tourists, including our film crew.
“There no such thing, but that's okay," Strode said. "It’s a real good boost for this town because this is the real home of the jackalope. “