SNOWSHOE HARE – Lepus americanus

SNOWSHOE HARE

Snowshoe hare facts: Snowshoe hares range in length from 16.5 to 20.7 inches (41.3 to 51.8 centimeters). They weigh from 3.12 to 3.4 pounds (1.4 to 1.56 kilograms). Females are slightly larger than males.

In the summer, their fur is rust or gray-brown with a black line running down their mid-back, cream colored on the sides of their lower body, and a white underside. Their face and legs are cinnamon colored. Their ears are brown with black tips and white or cream edges. During the winter, they turn white except for their black eyelids and black ear tips. The bottom of their paws are covered with dense fur, hence the name snowshoe hare.

Geographic range: Snowshoe hares are found throughout Canada and the northern United States, including Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains as far south as northern New Mexico.

Snowshoe hare habitat: Snowshoe hares live in open fields, swampy areas, riverside thickets, coniferous forests, including subarctic coniferous forests located south of tundra, and tundra.

What does snowshoe hare eat: Snowshoe hares have a varied diet. In the summer, it includes grasses, flowers, wild strawberry plants and fruit, dandelion, clover, horsetails, and new growth of aspen, birch, and willow trees. In the winter, they forage, search, for buds, twigs, bark, and evergreens.

Behavior and reproduction: Snowshoe hares are generally solitary but large populations often live within a small geographic area. They are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, and crepuscular (kri-PUS-kyuh-lur), meaning they are also active during dawn and twilight.

When snowshoe hares sense a predator is near, they often stand completely still, blending in with their surroundings. They are also fast runners, and have been clocked at speeds of up to 27 miles (43 kilometers) per hour. They can cover 10 feet (3 meters) in a single leap. They have acute hearing and are capable swimmers, able to swim across small lakes and rivers, usually to escape predators.

Snowshoe hares breed from mid-March through August. Females can have up to four litters per season, with litter sizes ranging from one to eight babies. The average litter size is two to four babies. The gestation period, the time the females carry the young in their womb, is thirty-six days. The young reach sexual maturity, ability to reproduce, at one year of age.

Snowshoe hares and people: The snowshoe hare is widely hunted by humans for its meat and fur.

Conservation status: The snowshoe hare is not listed as threatened by the IUCN. They are common throughout their range and populations seem to be remaining steady.