Greetings From… Douglas!

Home of the first sighting of the elusive jackalope! The creature was first spotted in the 1940s by Douglas Herrick. His taxidermied specimen was put on display in Douglas’ LaBonte Hotel by Roy Ball, the hotel’s proprietor. The jackalope has since become  the official symbol of Douglas. Check out the great article on the city’s website http://www.jackalope.org/Douglas/DouglasJackalope.html. (4/21/2014 This link no longer works. See below for the text.)

(WSA JACK03)

A rare photo of a standing jackalope. Most are photographed while seated. (WSA JACK03)

Did you know that the jackalope almost became our newest state symbol? During the 2013 legislative session, a bill was introduced proposing the jackalope as our state mythic creature. The bill was drafted in memory of Representative Dave Edwards, who passed away during the session. Edwards helped to promote the Jackalope as a symbol of his hometown of Douglas and it had been his dream that the jackalope be recognized as an official state symbol. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass.

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Story from the Town of Douglas website:

The town of Douglas celebrates the Jackalope the first weekend of June with many activities, such as, vendor entertainment, various events and mudbogging. Come join the fun!

Douglas Herrick, creator of the “jackalope” — that curious critter with a jack rabbit’s body and an antelope’s antlers that could turn downright vicious when threatened yet sing a gentle tenor along with the best of the campfire cowboys —died Jan. 3, 2003 in Casper, WY. He was 82.

In the 1930s, the Herrick brothers — Douglas and Ralph, who studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers — went hunting. Returning home, they tossed a rabbit into the taxidermy shop.

The carcass slid right up to a pair of deer antlers, and Douglas Herrick’s eyes suddenly lighted up.

“Let’s mount it the way it is!” he said, and a legend was born — or at least given form.

Jackalope, thanks to the Herrick brothers, have taken their place in modern mythology right alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

As “proof” of the jackalopes’ presence now and in the past, they cite:

Fact or fiction, legend or lark, the jackalope the Herricks stuffed and mounted gave their native Douglas, WY., a reason to be.

Before discovery of uranium, coal, oil and natural gas doubled the town’s population to about 7,500 in the mid-1970s, Douglas specialized in selling jackalope souvenirs. The Herrick’s fed the increasing demand for the stuffed and mounted trophies. Tens of thousands have been sold.

That first jackalope was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who installed it proudly in the town’s LaBonte Hotel. The mounted horned rabbit head was stolen in 1977.

The town of Douglas erected an 8-foot-tall statue of the jackalope on one of Center streets islands, which met its demise when a four wheel drive pick up tried to run it over. The statue was re-constructed in Jackalope Square in the center of Douglas, where it stands to this day. Proud city fathers

later added a 13-foot-tall jackalope cutout on a hillside and placed jackalope images on park benches and fire trucks, among other things. Now the largest jackalope in the world resides at the Douglas Railroad Interpretative Center.

Acknowledging the animal’s purported propensity to attack ferociously anything that threatened it, the city also posted warning signs: “Watch out for the jackalope.”

The Douglas Chamber of Commerce has issued thousands of jackalope hunting licenses, despite rules specifying that the hunter can hunt only between midnight and 2 a.m. each June 31.

Tourist-shop clerks in Douglas told and retold tales of cowboys who remembered harmonious jackalope joining their nightly campfire songs. Visitors rarely have left Douglas without buying jackalope postcards and trinkets.

The state of Wyoming trademarked the jackalope name in 1965. Twenty years later, Gov. Ed Herschler, crediting Douglas Herrick with the animal’s creation, designated Wyoming the jackalopes’ official home. The governor proclaimed Douglas to be the “Home of the Jackalope”.

Mr. Herrick made only about 1,000 or so horned rabbit trophies before going on to other things. His brother kept churning out jackalopes.

Mr. Herrick grew up on a ranch near Douglas and served as a tail gunner on a B-17 during World War II. He worked as a taxidermist until 1954, when he became a welder and pipe fitter for Amoco Refinery until his retirement in 1980.

 

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