CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Meadowlark, bison, cutthroat trout, horned toad. All are officially recognized creatures in Wyoming.
The jackalope, the most elusive of the state's critters, may soon join the list.
The Wyoming House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 45-12 to establish the part-antelope, part-jackrabbit "animal" as the state's official mythical creature. The legislation next heads to the state Senate.
"I seriously think this will lend some protection to the jackalope similar to what happened when Texas tried to take our bucking horse," said the sponsor, Rep. Dave Edwards, R-Douglas.
Last year the state of Wyoming settled a lawsuit with a Texas nonprofit which had been using a bucking bronc and rider symbol similar to Wyoming's trademarked logo.
Edwards sees his measure as a boon to retail sales of stuffed jackalopes.
"It's highly possible it will certainly boost the tourism industry, which has a lot of gift shops and sells all kinds of different jackalopes," he said.
Douglas taxidermist Doug Herrick, inspired by his grandfather's tales, is credited with creating the first jackalope in 1939 by screwing antelope horns to a mounted jackrabbit.
It's been a staple of Wyoming postcards ever since.
Herrick's nephew, Jim, is continuing the tradition, churning out about 2,500 mounted jackalopes each year.
In Douglas, the self-proclaimed "Jackalope Capital of the World," the creature has been promoted in chamber brochures since the late 1940s. An 8-foot fiberglass jackalope statue sits in a city park.
Pictures of the animal appear on billboards, benches and fire trucks. The city holds an annual Jackalope Days festival.
The chamber receives about five requests a week for jackalope "hunting licenses," interim director Christa Shepherd said.
Interest in jackalopes have grown over the years, she said.
"It's one of the unique things about Douglas," she said. "It is Douglas."
Stan Mullinnix, owner of a Douglas jewelry store which sells jackalope statuettes, applauded the state House for its vote.
He likened the jackalope to Punxsutawney Phil, the famed Pennsylvania prognosticating groundhog.
"Punxsutawney Phil is something that united not only a community but an entire state behind an absolutely wonderful mythological creature, and I think our own native jackalope is a creature of equal standing," he said.
"I hope it passes because it's good for Wyoming to have a sense of humor. Sometimes I don't think we have enough of one," Mullinnix said.