Snowshoe Hares are primarily a northern species that inhabits boreal forests and can range as far north as the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Primarily forest-dwellers, they prefer the thick cover of brushy undergrowth, where they are more protected from the many predators that threaten them.
Hares are typically larger than rabbits, and they usually have taller hind legs and longer ears. Snowshoe Hares have especially large, furry feet that help them to move atop the snow during the winter months. They have a white coat for winter camouflage, and it changes to brown when the snow melts each spring. It takes about ten weeks for the coat to completely change color.
These animals are very wary, nimble and fast, which is fortunate, because they are a popular target for many predators. Lynx, fox, coyote, and even some birds of prey hunt this sizeable hare.
A mature Snowshoe Hare weighs between two and four pounds and can reach lengths of almost two feet. Due to the very high rate of predation, the lifespan of a Snowshoe Hare in the wild averages only about one year. In spite of this, the species thrives because, like all rabbits and hares, Snowshoe Hares are prolific breeders. Females have two or three litters each year in simple nests above the ground. Litters number as many as eight young. Unlike rabbits, hares are born with hair and good vision, and can fend for themselves after only about a month.
Interesting, but useless bit of information . . . young hares are called leverets.
Photographed late in the day at Shirley’s Bay in Ottawa.