Lepus americanus
(Snowshoe Hare)


Order: Lagomorpha
Order Description: Lagomorphs
Family: Leporidae
Family Description:Rabbits and Hares

Description:
The snowshoe hare, sometimes called the varying hare, is white in winter except for black-tipped ears and gray with light flecks in summer.  It has a larger body, ears and feet than the mountain cottontail.  The soles of its feet are heavily furred which probably provides more surface area for movement in the snow.  Their total length is 14.4 to 20 inches (360-520 mm), their hind foot is 4.5 to 6 inches (112­150 mm), they weigh 3 to 4 pounds (1.4-1.8 kg).

Range:
From the Rockies, northern Great Lakes region, and New England, north through most of Canada and Alaska. Scattered populations exist in Appalachian Mountains, south to Great Smoky Mountains.

Habitat:
Prefers dense cover of coniferous Click word for definitionand mixed forests, but will also inhabit coniferous Click word for definitionswamps and second-growth areas adjacent to mature forests and alder fens and conifer bogs. In Idaho, most abundant in young lodgepole pine stands.

Diet:
In summer, eats succulent vegetation. In winter, consumes twigs, buds, and bark of small trees (particularly alder and balsam).

Ecology:
Mainly crepuscular Click word for definitionand nocturnal Click word for definition. Populations fluctuate widely over 10-11 yr cycle. Densities may vary from 1 to several hundred/2.6 km2. Home range is typically about 4 ha; male ranges are larger (in Montana study, home range of male was 10 ha, female was 6 ha). It is an important prey item for many forest predators such as bobcats, lynx, coyotes, red fox, hawks, eagles and owls.  Early Hudson Bay fur trapping records showed an intriguingly regular correlation between snowshoe hare population cycles and lynx populations.  The molt Click word for definitionfrom the gray coat to white occurs in fall and takes about 70 to 90 days.  The change is triggered by photoperiod Click word for definition(changing day length).

Reproduction:
The breeding period extends from March to late August. gestation Click word for definitionlasts 37 days. Young are born from May to September.  Females produce 1 to 4 litters of 1 to 6 (average 3) young per year.   Females breed in their second year.  Young grow rapidly; they are weaned Click word for definitionin about one month at about 9 times their birth weight.  They reach adult size in about 5 months.

Conservation:
Status: Game species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Important State References:
No references available at this time.


Information written and photo by Donald Streubel,© 2000
Map image provided by
Stephen Burton,© 2000
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.