Happy Birthday, Jackalope!

There's the chupacabra in South Texas, Lake Champlain's Champ, Sasquatch in the Northwest and Skunk Ape in Florida. But among hunters and sportsmen, perhaps the most popular mythical creature in the United States is the legendary jackalope—part jackrabbit and part mule deer—rumored to roam the high plains of the West.

If you're hunting jackalope, the best place to begin is Douglas, Wyoming. That's because it was in this town located between Casper and Cheyenne where the first physical portrayal of the whimsical creature took place in 1934.

That means the jackalope is turning 80 years old this year!

The late Douglas taxidermist, Douglas Herrick, is credited for creating the first jackalope when he and his brother, Ralph, mounted deer antlers on a jackrabbit head. The two teenagers, who were taking a mail-order taxidermy course at the time, returned from a rabbit hunt and decided to mount it. The first specimen was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who displayed it in his LaBonte Hotel. The original mount was reported stolen in 1977.

Today, an eight-foot statue of the creature greets entrants to the Wyoming State Fair. A 13-feet-high silhouette of a jackalope also stands on a hillside near town.

"It's reported that sportsmen can be seen straddling the beast for a photo-op almost any time of the day or night."

In addition, another 13-feet-tall furry jackalope that appears at various businesses around town as part of a promotion is a particularly big attraction for hunters visiting the Cowboy State from other parts of the country. It's reported that sportsmen can be seen straddling the beast for a photo-op almost any time of the day or night.

While he never patented his idea, Herrick received a proclamation from Gov. Ed Herschler in 1985, naming Wyoming the animal's official home. In 2013, nearly a decade after Herrick's death, Wyoming lawmakers resurrected a bill first introduced by an admired state legislator from Douglas who died earlier that year to designate the jackalope as "the official mythical creature of Wyoming."

And next week, just as it occurs every year during the first weekend of June, Douglas hosts its annual Jackalope Days Celebration. And thanks to some creative thinking at the local Chamber of Commerce, sportsmen may acquire their own non-resident jackalope hunting license online.

"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 they're 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."

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