Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Spanish (2) (learn more)

Overview

Brief Summary

Larger than rabbits, with longer hind legs and ears. Have especially large, furry feet which help with staying active in the winter. Most have a white winter coat that turns brown in the spring during snow melt, with the exception of snowshoe hares in Olympic National Park, which stay brown all year. Solitary, other than when breeding, often resting during the day.

Breeding season is typically February to August, with young being born from May to August. Litter size ranges from 1 to 6, with an average of 3. Life span is about two years, but ranges up to six years. Summer diet consists of grasses and other greens; winter diet includes twigs, bark and buds.

Prefer coniferous and mixed forests with abundant understory. Nest in hollow logs or ground depressions; underground burrows are usually avoided.

The range of Lepus americanus is in the western and northeastern United States and most of Canada.

In the Southwest region the population is vulnerable; in the Northwest region they are secure; the population in the East ranges from critically imperiled to secure.

Public Domain

National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) at http://www.nbii.gov

Supplier: Bob Corrigan

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Description

The Snowshoe Hare is broadly distributed in the north from coast to coast and occurs in a variety of habitat types, including swamps, hardwood forests, and mixed and evergreen forests. Nocturnal like most members of the family, this hare consistently travels along the same runways and tends to remain hidden in vegetation until sundown. It is active year round and can have two to five litters per year, each producing one to eight offspring. Their populations fluctuate radically over 10-year cycles, which is probably because of changes in food supply: the hare population grows, they over-graze, and starvation follows. True to its name, the Snowshoe Hare has large feet padded by dense spiraling hairs, each acting like a spring. Most Snowshoe Hares change color, from a summer brown coat to winter white, offering camouflage in each season.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
  • Original description: Erxleben, J.C.P., 1777.  Systema regni animalis per classes, ordines, genera, species, varietas, cum synonymia et historia animalium.  Classis I, Mammalia, p. 330.  Wegand, Leipzig, 636 pp.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution

Source: Smithsonian's North American Mammals

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Range Description

Lepus americanus appears in boreal and mixed deciduous forests of North America. It occurs in all provinces of Canada, except Nunavut. In the USA it is present in Alaska, as well as the western mountain states of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Colorado, and small pockets in high elevation areas in New Mexico, Utah, and California. Its distribution also includes the Great Lakes region and eastern states of Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Historically in mountain portions of West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, but those populations seem to have declined recently.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Geographic Range

Snowshoe hares are found throughout Canada and in the northernmost United States. The range extends south along the Sierras, Rockies, and Appalachian mountain ranges.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Snowshoe hares occur from Newfoundland east to western Alaska; south in
the Sierra Nevada to central California; in the Rocky Mountains to
southern Utah and northern New Mexico; and in the Appalachian Mountains
to North Carolina and Tennessee [9,18,20,38].

Locations of subspecies are as follows [38]:

Lepus americanus americanus - Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta,
  Montana, and North Dakota
L. a. cascadensis - British Columbia and Washington
L. a. columbiensis - British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington
L. a.  dalli - Mackenzie District, British Columbia, Alaska, Yukon
  Territory
L. a. klamathensis - Oregon and California
L. a. oregonus - Oregon
L. a. pallidus - British Columbia
L. a. phaeonotus - Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Wisconsin, and
  Minnesota
L. a. pineus - British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington
L. a. seclusus - Wyoming
L. a. struthopus - Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward
  Island, Quebec, and Maine
L. a. tahoensis - California, western Nevada
L. a. virginianus - Ontario, Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,
  Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Tennessee
L. a. washingtonii - British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 18. Chapman, J. A.; Dixon, K. R.; Lopez-Forment, W.; Wilson, D. E. 1983. The New World jackrabbits and hares (genus Lepus).--1. Taxonomic history and population status. Acta Zoologica Fennica. 174: 49-51. [25011]
  • 38. Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1271 p. [14765]
  • 20. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 1986. New England wildlife: habitat, natural history, and distribution. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-108. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 491 p. [21386]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    4  Sierra Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau
    8  Northern Rocky Mountains
    9  Middle Rocky Mountains
   10  Wyoming Basin
   11  Southern Rocky Mountains
   12  Colorado Plateau
   15  Black Hills Uplift
   16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Occurrence in North America

AK AR CA CO CT ID KY ME MD MA
MI MN MT NV NH NM NY NC ND OR
PA RI SD TN UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PE PQ
SK YK

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Geographic Range

Snowshoe hares are found throughout Canada and in the northernmost United States. The range extends south along the Sierras, Rockies, and Appalachian mountain ranges.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Range: Sierra Nevada (California/Nevada), Rocky Mountains (to south-central Utah and north-central New Mexico), northern Great Lakes region, and New England north through most of Canada and Alaska. Scattered populations occur in the Appalachian Mountains south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Introduced and established in forested areas of Newfoundland and Anacosti Island.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Snowshoe hares range in length from 413 to 518 mm, of which 39 to 52 mm are tail. The hind foot, long and wide, measures 117 to 147 mm in length. The ears are 62 to 70 mm from base to tip. Snowshoe hares usually weigh between 1.43 and 1.55 kg. Males are slightly smaller than females, as is typical for leporidae. In the summer, the coat is a rusty or grayish brown, with a blackish line down the middle of the back, buffy sides and a white belly. The face and legs are cinnamon brown. The ears are brownish with black tips and white or creamy borders. During the winter, the fur is almost entirely white, except for black eyelids and the blackened tips on the ears. The bottoms of the feet are covered with thick fur, with stiff hairs (forming the snowshoe) on the hind feet.

Range mass: 1.43 to 1.55 kg.

Range length: 413 to 518 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Average basal metabolic rate: 6.708 W.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Snowshoe hares range in length from 413 to 518 mm, of which 39 to 52 mm are tail. The hind foot, long and broad, measures 117 to 147 mm in length. The ears are 62 to 70 mm from notch to tip. Snowshoe hares usually weigh between 1.43 and 1.55 kg. Males are slightly smaller than females, as is typical for leporids. In the summer, the coat is a grizzled rusty or grayish brown, with a blackish middorsal line, buffy flanks and a white belly. The face and legs are cinnamon brown. The ears are brownish with black tips and white or creamy borders. During the winter, the fur is almost entirely white, except for black eyelids and the blackened tips on the ears. The soles of the feet are densely furred, with stiff hairs (forming the snowshoe) on the hind feet.

Range mass: 1.43 to 1.55 kg.

Range length: 413 to 518 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Average basal metabolic rate: 6.708 W.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Size

Length: 52 cm

Weight: 1400 grams

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Females are larger than males.

Length:
Average: 450 mm
Range: 363-520 mm

Weight:
Average: 1,300 g males; 1,500 g females
Range: 900-1,700 g males; 900-2,200 g females
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution

Source: Smithsonian's North American Mammals

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Lepus americanus is associated with boreal and mixed deciduous forest of North America. It requires fairly dense vegetation, which it uses as cover. This species requires snow cover, because of its white winter pelage. Two subspecies along the Pacific coast fail to turn white and may be more common in Pacific forests with little or no winter snow cover. Requires mixed forest with dense understory. Typically, stands aged 25-40 years are ideal. L. americanus also seems to favor edge habitat. Diet consists mostly of grasses, forbs, sedges, and ferns (Murray 2003).

The total length of L. americanus is 36.0 - 52.0 cm (Banfield 1974; Hall 1981). The breeding season of L. americanus is from March to September and is subject to photoperiod control (Murray 2003). The average number of litters by L. americanus varies according to location with 1.9 litters per year in Alaska and 3.8 litters per year in Wisconsin (Murray 2003). Litter size varies according to location and number of previous litters produced (Murray 2003).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Snowshoe hares are most often found in open fields, fence rows, swamps, riverside thickets, cedar bogs and low areas with conifers.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; forest

Wetlands: swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Cover Requirements

More info for the terms: cover, density

Snowshoe hares require dense, brushy, usually coniferous cover; thermal
and escape cover are especially important for young snowshoe hares
[20,35].  Low brush provides hiding, escape, and thermal cover.  Heavy
cover 10 feet (3 m) above ground provides protection from avian
predators, and heavy cover 3.3 feet (1 m) tall provides cover from
terrestrial predators [16].  Overwinter survival of snowshoe hares
increases with increased cover [51].  A wide variety of habitat types
are used if cover is available.  Base visibility in good snowshoe hare
habitat ranges from 2 percent at 16.5 feet (5 m) distance to 0 percent
at 66 feet (20 m).  Travel cover is slightly more open, ranging from
14.7 percent visibility at 16.5 feet (5 m) to 2.6 percent at 66 feet (20
m) [16].  Wolfe and others [81] reported that areas with horizontal
vegetation density of 40 to 100 percent at 50 feet (15 m) are adequate
snowshoe hare habitat in Utah [80].
  • 16. Carreker, R. G. 1985. Habitat suitability index models: snowshoe hare. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Devlopement; Western Energy and Land Use Team, Division of Biological Sciences. 21 p. [25079]
  • 51. Litvaitis, John A.; Sherburne, James A.; Bissonette, John A. 1985. Influence of understory characteristics on snowshoe hare habitat use and density. Journal of Wildlife Management. 49(4): 866-873. [19878]
  • 80. Wolff, Jerry O. 1980. The role of habitat patchiness in the population dynamics of snowshoe hares. Ecological Monographs. 50(1): 111-130. [25078]
  • 81. Wolfe, Michael L.; Debyle, Norbert V.; Winchell, Clark S.; McCabe, Thomas R. 1982. Snowshoe hare cover relationships in northern Utah. Journal of Wildlife Management. 46(3): 662-670. [26175]
  • 35. Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289-307. [25020]
  • 20. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 1986. New England wildlife: habitat, natural history, and distribution. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-108. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 491 p. [21386]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Preferred Habitat

More info for the terms: cover, density, presence, succession

A habitat suitability index model for snowshoe hare was summarized by
Carreker [16].  Major variables in habitat quality include average
visual obstruction and browse biomass.  Snowshoe hares prefer young
forests with abundant understories.  The presence of cover is the
primary determinant of habitat quality for snowshoe hares and is more
significant than food availability [16] or species composition [19,51].
Species composition does, however, influence population density; dense
softwood understories support greater snowshoe hare density than
hardwoods because of cover quality.  In Maine it was observed that
female snowshoe hares were more common on sites with less cover but more
nutritious forage; males tended to be found on sites with heavier cover
[50].

Winter browse availability depends on height of understory brush and
winter snow depth; 6- to 8-foot tall (1.8-2.4 m) saplings with narrow
stem diameters are required for winter browse in heavy snow [81].

In northern regions snowshoe hares occupy conifer and mixed forests in
all stages of succession, but early successional forests foster peak
abundance.  Deciduous forests are usually occupied only in early stages
of succession [36].  In New England snowshoe hares preferred
second-growth deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woods with dense brushy
understories; snowshoe hares appear to prefer shrubby old-field areas,
early- to mid-successional burns, shrub-swamps, bogs, and upper montane
krumholz vegetation [21].  In Maine snowshoe hares were more active in
clearcut areas than in partially cut or uncut areas.  Sapling densities
were highest on 12- to 15-year-old plots; these plots were used more
than younger stands [55].  In northern Utah snowshoe hares occupied all
the later stages of succession on quaking aspen and spruce-fir but were
not observed in meadows [66].  In Alberta snowshoe hares use upland
shrub-sapling stages of regenerating aspens (either postfire or
postharvest) [82].  In British Columbia overstocked juvenile lodgepole
pine (Pinus contorta) stands formed optimal snowshoe hare habitat [72].

In western Washington most unburned, burned, or scarified clearcuts will
normally be fully occupied by snowshoe hares within 4 to 5 years as
vegetation becomes dense [15].  In older stands (more than 25 years)
stem density begins to decline and cover for snowshoe hares decreases
[46].  However, in north-central Washington snowshoe hares may not
colonize clearcuts until 6 or 7 years and it may take 20 to 25 years for
snowshoe hare density to reach maximum [6].  Winter snowshoe hare pellet
counts were highest in 20-year-old lodgepole pine stands, lower in older
lodgepole stands, and lowest in spruce-dominated stands [46].  In
western Oregon snowshoe hares were abundant only in early successional
stages including stable brushfields [2].  In west-central Oregon an
old-growth Douglas-fir forest was clearcut and monitored through 10
years of succession.  A few snowshoe hares were noted in adjacent virgin
forest plots; they represented widely scattered, sparse populations.
One snowshoe hare was observed on the disturbed plot 2.5 years after it
had been clearcut and burned; at this stage ground cover was similar to
that of the uncut forest.  By 9 years after disturbance snowshoe hare
density had increased markedly [33].

Slope and Aspect:  In western Washington snowshoe hares routinely used
steep slopes where cover was adequate; most studies, however, suggest
that snowshoe hares tend to prefer gentle slopes [15].

Moonlight increases snowshoe hare vulnerability to predation,
particularly in winter.  Gilbert and Boutin [34] presented some evidence
that snowshoe hares tend to avoid open areas during bright phases of the
moon and during bright periods of a single night.  Snowshoe hare
activity usually shifts from coniferous understories in winter to
hardwood understories in summer [56].

Home Range:  Vegetative structure plays an important role in the size of
snowshoe hare home ranges.  Snowshoe hares wander up to 5 miles (8 km)
when food is scarce [3].  In Montana home ranges are smaller in brushy
woods than in open woods [1].  In Colorado and Utah the average home
range of both sexes was 20 acres (8.1 ha) [25].  On Montreal Island of
Quebec, the average daily range for both sexes was 4 acres (1.6 ha) in
old-field mixed woods [8].  In Montana the home range averaged 25 acres
(10 ha) for males and 19 acres (7.6 ha) for females [1].  In Oregon the
average snowshoe hare home range was 14.6 acres (5.9 ha) [58].
  • 1. Adams, Lowell. 1959. An analysis of a population of snowshoe hares in northwestern Montana. Ecological Monographs. 29(2): 148-153. [25154]
  • 2. Allen, Hollis Howard. 1969. The inter-relationship of salmonberry and Douglas-fir in cutover areas. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 56 p. Thesis. [7140]
  • 3. Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 438 p. [25152]
  • 6. Burgason, Barry Nels. 1977. Bird and mammal use of old commercial clearcuts in northern Maine. Orono, ME: University of Maine. 53 p. Thesis. [26448]
  • 8. Bider, J. Roger. 1961. An ecological study of the hare Lepus americanus. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 39(1): 81-103. [25218]
  • 15. Campbell, Dan L. 1982. Influence of site preparation on animal use and animal damage to tree seedlings. In: Baumgartner, David M., compiler. Site preparation and fuels management on steep terrain: Proceedings of a symposium; 1982 February 15-17; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 93-101. [18536]
  • 16. Carreker, R. G. 1985. Habitat suitability index models: snowshoe hare. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Devlopement; Western Energy and Land Use Team, Division of Biological Sciences. 21 p. [25079]
  • 19. Converse, Kathryn A.; Morzuch, Bernard J. 1981. A descriptive model of snowshoe hare habitat. In: Capen, David E., editor. The use of multivariate statistics in studies of wildlife habitat: a workshop: Proceedings; 1980 April 23-25; Burlington, VT. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-87. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 232-241. [25080]
  • 21. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko; Leak, William B.; Lanier, John W. 1992. New England wildlife: management of forested habitats. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-144. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 271 p. [19322]
  • 25. Dolbeer, Richard A.; Clark, William R. 1975. Population ecology of snowshoe hares in the central Rocky Mountains. Journal of Wildlife Management. 39(3): 535-549. [25103]
  • 33. Gashwiler, Jay S. 1970. Plant and mammal changes on a clearcut in west-central Oregon. Ecology. 51(6): 1018-1026. [8523]
  • 34. Gilbert, B. Scott; Boutin, Stan. 1991. Effect of moonlight on winter activity of snowshoe hares. Arctic and Alpine Research. 23(1): 61-65. [14470]
  • 36. Grange, Wallace. 1965. Fire and tree growth relationships to snowshoe rabbits. In: Proceedings, 4th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1965 March 18-19; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahasee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 111-123. [13530]
  • 46. Koehler, Gary M. 1990. Population and habitat characteristics of lynx and snowshoe hares in north central Washington. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 68: 845-851. [18030]
  • 50. Litvaitis, John A. 1990. Differential habitat use by sexes of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). Journal of Mammalogy. 71(4): 520-523. [25073]
  • 51. Litvaitis, John A.; Sherburne, James A.; Bissonette, John A. 1985. Influence of understory characteristics on snowshoe hare habitat use and density. Journal of Wildlife Management. 49(4): 866-873. [19878]
  • 55. Monthey, Roger W. 1986. Responses of snowshoe hares, Lepus americanus, to timber harvesting in northern Maine. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100(4): 568-570. [25074]
  • 56. O'Donoghue, Mark. 1983. Seasonal habitat selection by snowshoe hare in eastern Maine. Transactions, Northeast Section of the Wildlife Society. 40: 100-107. [26101]
  • 58. O'Farrell, Thomas P. 1965. Home range and ecology of snowshoe hares in interior Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy. 46(3): 406-418. [25105]
  • 66. Schimpf, David J.; Henderson, Jan A.; MacMahon, James A. 1980. Some aspects of succession in the spruce-fir forest zone of northern Utah. The Great Basin Naturalist. 40(1): 1-26. [16443]
  • 72. Sullivan, T. P.; Sullivan, D. S. 1988. Influence of stand thinning on snowshoe hare population dynamics and feeding damage in lodgepole pine forest. Journal of Applied Ecology. 25: 791-805. [25077]
  • 81. Wolfe, Michael L.; Debyle, Norbert V.; Winchell, Clark S.; McCabe, Thomas R. 1982. Snowshoe hare cover relationships in northern Utah. Journal of Wildlife Management. 46(3): 662-670. [26175]
  • 82. Wollis, H. 1991. Wildlife and aspen management: a government perspective. In: Navratil, S.; Chapman, P. B., eds. Aspen management for the 21st century: Proceedings of a symposium; 1990 November 20-21; Edmonton, AB. Edmonton, AB: Forestry Canada, Northwest Region, Northern Forestry Centre; Poplar Council of Canada: 87-91. [18549]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Associated Plant Communities

More info for the terms: shrub, shrubs, vine

Snowshoe hares are primarily found in boreal forests and upper montane
forests; within these forests they favor habitats with a dense shrub
layer.  In the Pacific Northwest snowshoe hares occupy diverse habitats
including mature conifers (mostly Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii]
and variants), immature conifers, alder (Alnus spp.)/salmonberry (Rubus
spectabilis), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)/salal (Gaultheria
shallon), and cedar (Thuja spp.) swamps [53].  In western Oregon
snowshoe hares were present in brush patches of vine maple (Acer
circinatum), willows (Salix spp.), rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.),
and other shrubs [2].

In Utah snowshoe hares used Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli) in the
northern portion of the Gambel oak range [39].

In the Southwest the southernmost populations of snowshoe hares occur in
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico, in subalpine scrub:  narrow
bands of shrubby and prostrate conifers at and just below timberline
that is usually composed of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii),
bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), limber pine (P. flexilis), and/or
common juniper (Juniperus communis) [12].

In Minnesota snowshoe hares use jack pine (P. banksiana) uplands, edges,
tamarack (Larix laricina) bogs, black spruce (Picea mariana) bogs, and
sedge (Carex spp.), alder, and scrub fens [62].

In New England snowshoe hares favor second-growth aspen (Populus
spp.)-birch (Betula spp.) near conifers, but other forest types occupied
by snowshoe hares include aspens, paper birch (B. papyrifera), northern
hardwoods, red maple (A. rubrum), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), red
spruce (Picea rubens)-balsam fir, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis),
northern red oak (Quercus rubra), oak (Quercus spp.)-pine (Pinus spp.),
eastern white pine (P. strobus)-northern red oak-red maple, and eastern
white pine.  Snowshoe hares also use shrub swamps dominated by
buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), alders, and silky dogwood
(Cornus ammomum) [20,21].  Further details on plant communities used by
snowshoe hares in different regions are in Bittner and Rongstad [9].
  • 2. Allen, Hollis Howard. 1969. The inter-relationship of salmonberry and Douglas-fir in cutover areas. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 56 p. Thesis. [7140]
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 12. Brown, David E. 1982. Subalpine scrub. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 81. [8889]
  • 21. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko; Leak, William B.; Lanier, John W. 1992. New England wildlife: management of forested habitats. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-144. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 271 p. [19322]
  • 39. Harper, Kimball T.; Wagstaff, Fred J.; Kunzler, Lynn M. 1985. Biology management of the Gambel oak vegetative type: a literature review. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-179. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 31 p. [3286]
  • 53. Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 496 p. [10238]
  • 62. Pietz, Pamela J.; Tester, John R. 1983. Habitat selection by snowshoe hares in North Central Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(3): 686-696. [25076]
  • 20. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 1986. New England wildlife: habitat, natural history, and distribution. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-108. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 491 p. [21386]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

   203  Riparian woodland
   409  Tall forb
   411  Aspen woodland
   421  Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

     1  Jack pine
     5  Balsam fir
    12  Black spruce
    13  Black spruce-tamarack
    15  Red pine
    16  Aspen
    17  Pin cherry
    18  Paper birch
    19  Gray birch-red maple
    20  White pine-northern red oak-red maple
    21  Eastern white pine
    22  White pine-hemlock
    23  Eastern hemlock
    24  Hemlock-yellow birch
    25  Sugar maple-beech-yellow birch
    30  Red spruce-yellow birch
    31  Red spruce-sugar maple-beech
    32  Red spruce
    33  Red spruce-balsam fir
    34  Red spruce-Fraser fir
    35  Paper birch-red spruce-balsam fir
    37  Northern white-cedar
    38  Tamarack
    51  White pine-chestnut oak
   107  White spruce
   201  White spruce
   202  White spruce-paper birch
   204  Black spruce
   205  Mountain hemlock
   206  Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
   207  Red fir
   208  Whitebark pine
   209  Bristlecone pine
   210  Interior Douglas-fir
   212  Western larch
   216  Blue spruce
   218  Lodgepole pine
   219  Limber pine
   217  Aspen
   221  Red alder
   223  Sitka spruce
   224  Western hemlock
   225  Western hemlock-Sitka spruce
   226  Coastal true fir-hemlock
   227  Western redcedar-western hemlock
   228  Western redcedar
   229  Pacific Douglas-fir
   230  Douglas-fir-western hemlock
   231  Port-Orford-cedar
   243  Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
   251  White spruce-aspen
   253  Black spruce-white spruce
   254  Black spruce-paper birch
   252  Paper birch
   256  California mixed subalpine

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

   K001  Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest
   K002  Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest
   K003  Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest
   K004  Fir-hemlock forest
   K008  Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
   K012  Douglas-fir forest
   K015  Western spruce-fir forest
   K015  Western spruce-fir forest
   K014  Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest
   K020  Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
   K022  Great Basin pine forest
   K028  Mosaic of K002 and K026
   K093  Great Lakes spruce-fir forest
   K094  Conifer bog
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K096  Northeastern spruce-fir forest
   K097  Southeastern spruce-fir forest
   K099  Maple-basswood forest
   K102  Beech-maple forest
   K013  Cedar-hemlock-pine forest
   K016  Eastern ponderosa forest
   K017  Black Hills pine forest
   K018  Pine-Douglas-fir forest

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Snowshoe hares are most often found in open fields, fence rows, swamps, riverside thickets, cedar bogs and coniferous lowlands.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; forest

Wetlands: swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: Prefers the dense cover of coniferous and mixed forests; abundant understory cover is important. Coniferous swamps and second-growth areas that are adjacent to mature forests, and alder fens and conifer bogs, are also utilized. Often in ecotones. Rests in daytime in dense cover. Nesting places may be made in a ground depression or hollow log. Underground burrows generally are avoided. Litters stay at natal sites for up to a few days or a week, gradually range farther away.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Home ranges usually fairly small: about 10 hectares for males (Adams 1959); averaged 8 hectares in Colorado and Utah (Dolbeer and Clark 1975); averaged about 3-6 ha (ranged up to nearly 16 ha) during peak phase of population density in Yukon Territory (Burton and Krebs 2003).

Home range size varies with location and season; most studies indicate a home range size averaging 5-20 ha (Handley 1991). Male ranges average larger than those of females. In Yukon Territory, Canada, 18 natal dispersal distances ranged from 23 m to more than 16 km (all but two were less than 3 km) (Gillis and Krebs 1999).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The diet of snowshoe hares is variable. They eat many different kinds of grasses, small leafy plants, and flowers. The new growth of trembling aspen, birches and willows is also eaten. During the winter, snowshoe hares forage on buds, twigs, bark, and evergreens. They have been known to scavenge the remains of their own kind in the winter months. At all times, it is important for hares to eat a certain type of feces that they produce. Because much of the digestion of food occurs in the last portion of their gut, in order to get all of the available nutrients from their food, they must cycle it through their digestive system a second time.

Animal Foods: carrion

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; flowers

Other Foods: dung

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Food Habits

More info for the terms: bog, cover, forbs

Snowshoe hares eat a variety of plant materials.  Forage type varies
with season.  Succulent green vegetation is consumed when available from
spring to fall; after the first frost buds, twigs, evergreen needles,
and bark form the bulk of snowshoe hare diets until spring greenup
[9,53].

Winter Foods:  Snowshoe hares prefer branches, twigs, and small stems up
to 0.25 inch (6.3 mm) diameter; larger stems are sometimes used in
winter [35].  In Yukon Territory snowshoe hares normally eat
fast-growing birches and willows and avoid spruce.  At high snowshoe
hare densities, however, the apical shoots of small spruce are eaten
[68].  The snowshoe hare winter diet is dominated by bog birch (Betula
glandulosa) which is preferred but not always available.  Greyleaf
willow (Salix glauca) is eaten most often when bog birch is not
available.  Buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis) is the fourth most
common diet item.  White spruce (Picea glauca) is eaten but not
preferred.  In Alaska spruce, willows, and alders comprise 75 percent of
snowshoe hare diets; spruce needles make up nearly 40 percent of the
diet [79].  In northwestern Oregon winter foods include needles and
tender bark of Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock (Tsuga
heterophylla); leaves and green twigs of salal; buds, twigs, and bark of
willows; and green herbs [53].  In north-central Washington willows and
birches are not plentiful; snowshoe hares browse the tips of lodgepole
pine seedlings [47].  In Utah winter foods include Douglas-fir, willows,
snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), maples, and serviceberry (Amelanchier
spp.).  In Minnesota aspens, willows, hazelnut (Corylus spp.), ferns
(Pteridophyta spp.), birches, alders, sumacs (Rhus spp.), and
strawberries (Fragaria spp.) are winter foods.  In New York winter foods
include eastern white pine, red pine (Pinus resinosa), white spruce,
paper birch, and aspens [52].  In Ontario sugar maple (Acer saccharum),
striped maple (A. pensylvanicum), red maple, other deciduous species,
northern white-cedar (T.  occidentalis), balsam fir, beaked hazelnut (C.
cornuta), and buffaloberry were heavily barked [22].  In New Brunswick
snowshoe hares consumed northern white-cedar, spruces, American beech
(Fagus grandifolia), balsam fir, mountain maple (A.  spicatum), and many
other species of browse [74].  In Newfoundland paper birch is preferred
[24].  Further details on regional food preferences are summarized in
Bittner and Rongstad [9].

Spring, Summer, and Fall Foods:  In Alaska snowshoe hares consume new
leaves of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), new shoots of field horsetails
(Equisetum arvense), and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) in spring.
Grasses are not a major item due to low availability associated with
sites that have adequate cover.  In summer leaves of willows, black
spruce, birches, and bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) are also
consumed.  Black spruce is the most heavily used and the most common
species in the area.  Pen trials suggest that black spruce is not
actually preferred.  Roses (Rosa spp.) were preferred but a minor
dietary item as they were not common in the study area [79].  In
northwest Oregon summer foods include grasses, clovers (Trifolium spp.),
other forbs, and some woody plants including Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir,
and young leaves and twigs of salal [53].  In Minnesota aspens, willows,
grasses, birches, alders, sumacs, and strawberries are consumed when
green [52].  In Ontario summer diets consist of clovers, grasses, and
forbs [22].
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 22. de Vos, Antoon. 1964. Food utilization of snowshoe hares on Mantioulin Island, Ontario. Journal of Forestry. 62: 238-244. [25071]
  • 24. Dodds, Donald G. 1960. Food competition and range relationships of moose and snowshoe hare in Newfoundland. Journal of Wildlife Management. 24(1): 52-60. [25107]
  • 47. Koehler, Gary M.; Brittell, J. David. 1990. Managing spruce-fir habitat for lynx and snowshoe hares. Journal of Forestry. 88(10): 10-14. [13599]
  • 52. Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. 1951. American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 500 p. [4021]
  • 53. Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 496 p. [10238]
  • 74. Telfer, Edmund S. 1972. Browse selection by deer and hares. Journal of Wildlife Management. 36(4): 1344-1349. [12455]
  • 79. Wolff, Jerry O. 1978. Food habits of snowshoe hare in interior Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(1): 148-153. [7443]
  • 35. Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289-307. [25020]
  • 68. Sinclair, A. R. E.; Gosline, J. M.; Holdsworth, G.; [and others]. 1993. Can the solar cycle and climate synchronize the snowshoe hare cycle in Canada? Evidence from tree rings and ice cores. The American Naturalist. 141(2): 173-198. [21458]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Food Habits

The diet of snowshoe hares is variable. They browse on green grasses, forbs, bluegrass, brome, vetches, asters, jewelweed, wild strawberry, pussy-toes, dandelions, clovers, daisies and horsetails. The new growth of trembling aspen, birches and willows is also eaten. During the winter, snowshoe hares forage on buds, twigs, bark, and evergreens. They have been known to cannibalize the remains of dead conspecifics in winter months. At all times, it is important for hares to reingest certain feces. Because much of the digestion of food occurs in their hindguts, in order to extract all of the available nutrients from their food, they must cycle it through their digestive system a second time.

Animal Foods: carrion

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; flowers

Other Foods: dung

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: In summer, eats succulent vegetation. In winter, diet consists of twigs, buds, bark of small trees. Also coprophagous.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Snowshoe hares are important prey animals in their ecosystem.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

Snowshoe hares are experts at escaping predators. Young hares often "freeze" in their tracks when they sense a predator nearby. They are trying to escape notice by blending in with their background. Given the hare's background-matching coloration, this strategy is quite effective. Older hares are more likely to escape predators by fleeing. At top speed, a snowshoe hare can travel up to 27 mile per hour. An adult hare can cover up to 10 feet in a single bound. In addition to high speeds, hares use skillful changes in direction and vertical leaps, which may cause a predator to misjudge the exact position of the animal from one moment to the next.

Important predators of snowshoe hares include Urocyon cinereoargenteus, vulpes vulpes, canis latrans, Canis lupus, Lynx canadensis, Lynx rufus and mustela vison.

Known Predators:

  • coyotes (Canis_latrans)
  • wolves (Canis_lupus)
  • lynx (Lynx_canadensis)
  • bobcats (Lynx_rufus)
  • mink (Mustela_vison)
  • red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • grey foxes (Urocyon_cinereoargenteus)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Predators

The snowshoe hare is a major prey item for a number of predators.  Major
predators include lynx (Lynx lynx), bobcats (L. rufus), fishers (Martes
pennanti), American martens (M. americana), long-tailed weasels (Mustela
frenata), minks (M. vison), foxes (Vulpes and Urocyon spp.), coyote
(Canis latrans), domestic dogs (C. familiaris), mountain lions (Felis
concolor), domestic cats (F. catus), great horned owls (Bubo
virginianus), barred owls (Strix varia), spotted owls (S.
occidentalis), other owls, red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis),
northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), other hawks (Buteonidae), golden
eagles (Aquila chryseatos), and crows and ravens (Corvidae)
[9,16,35,53,59,75].  Other predators include northern short-tailed
shrews (Blarina brevicaula) and black bears (Ursus americanus) [9,75].
In Glacier National Park snowshoe hares are a prey item of Rocky
Mountain wolves (Canis lupus irremotus) [40].
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 16. Carreker, R. G. 1985. Habitat suitability index models: snowshoe hare. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Devlopement; Western Energy and Land Use Team, Division of Biological Sciences. 21 p. [25079]
  • 40. Herman, Margaret, Willard, E. Earl. 1978. Rocky Mountain wolf and its habitat. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Forest System Cooperative Forestry, Forestry Research, Region 1. 17 p. [16522]
  • 53. Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 496 p. [10238]
  • 59. Patla, Susan. 1989. Northern goshawk monitoring project report. Final Report. Purchase Order No. 43-02S2-8-1931. St. Anthony, ID: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Targhee National Forest. 53 p. [19363]
  • 75. Todd, Charles S. 1989. Golden eagle. In: Northeast raptor management symposium and workshop: Proceedings; 1989 May 16-18; Syracuse, NY. National Wildlife Federation Scientific and Technical Series 13. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 65-70. [22176]
  • 35. Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289-307. [25020]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecosystem Roles

Snowshoe hares are important prey animals in their ecosystem.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

Snowshoe hares are experts at escaping predators. Young hares often "freeze" in their tracks when they are alerted to the presence of a predator. Presumably, they are attempting to escape notice by being cryptic. Given the hare's background-matching coloration, this strategy is quite effective. Older hares are more likely to escape predators by fleeing. At top speed, a snowshoe hare can travel up to 27 mile per hour. An adult hare can cover up to 10 feet in a single bound. In addition to high speeds, hares employ skillful changes in direction and vertical leaps, which may cause a predator to misjudge the exact position of the animal from one moment to the next.

Important predators of snowshoe hares include gray foxes, red foxes, coyotes, wolves, lynx, bobcats and mink.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Known predators

Lepus americanus (snowshoe rabbit) is prey of:
Accipiter gentilis
Bubo virginianus
Acari

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Known prey organisms

Lepus americanus (snowshoe rabbit) preys on:
Corylus
Prunus
Amelanchier
Symphoricarpos

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

General Ecology

Habitat-related Fire Effects

More info for the terms: cover, fire suppression, forbs, frequency, prescribed fire, shrubs

Nearly every plant that is important to snowshoe hares is favored by
fire:  jack pine, lodgepole pine, black spruce, quaking aspen, birches,
blueberries, fireweed, eastern white pine, white spruce, northern
white-cedar, tamarack, and eastern hemlock are all fire followers to
some extent and are used by snowshoe hares for food and/or cover [36].
Fire, even at moderatly long intervals, maintains a mosaic of
successional stages which provide good snowshoe hare habitat [65].  In
summer forbs and the leaves of shrubs are abundant and nutritious on
recently burned areas [45].  Snowshoe hares depend on small, new stems
which are available in large amounts on recently burned areas [36].  In
Alaska small fires or large fires with unburned areas of black spruce or
other heavy cover provide good to optimal habitat for snowshoe hares
[45].  In Alaska a 3-year-old burn provided willow browse for snowshoe
hares [78].  In north-central Washington fire suppression has limited
the amount of early-successional forest.  The prevalence of older,
suboptimal habitats does not provide enough browse for snowshoe hare
populations to sharply increase and therefore snowshoe hare populations
in the area are low but stable [46].

Periodic fire that results in an increase in dense, brushy cover is
beneficial to snowshoe hares.  In Minnesota a large prescribed fire set
in 1925 escaped and burned a few thousand acres.  The area was seeded in
by jack pine which, after eleven growing seasons, supported a large
snowshoe hare population [36].  Snowshoe hares populations have
increased after fire in Acadia National Park, Maine [60].

Areas that are burned frequently enough to reduce the height and density
of brushy cover would not be used much by snowshoe hares.  In
northwestern Minnesota mature quaking aspen stands were converted to
open brushlands with repeated prescribed fires over a 17-year period.
Study plots were burned in spring 1968, 1971, 1973, and 1975.  The
number of snowshoe hare pellets counted fluctuated with burning;
snowshoe hare pellets decreased immediately following fire and gradually
increased until the next fire.  After the fourth fire snowshoe hare
numbers and rate of increase were both very low [4].  Mean frequency of
snowshoe hare observations was higher on control areas (48%) than on
burned areas (33%).  After 1973 ground cover was sparse on burned areas
[5].
  • 4. Berg, William E. 1979. Wildland habitat development study. Minnesota Wildlife Research Quarterly. 39(3): 97-118. [14258]
  • 5. Berg, William E.; Watt, Philip G. 1986. Prescribed burning for wildlife in northwestern Minnesota. In: Koonce, Andrea L., ed. Prescribed burning in the Midwest: state-of-the-art: Proceedings of a symposium; 1986 March 3-6; Stevens Point, WI. Stevens Point, WI: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources, Fire Science Center: 158-162. [16282]
  • 36. Grange, Wallace. 1965. Fire and tree growth relationships to snowshoe rabbits. In: Proceedings, 4th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1965 March 18-19; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahasee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 111-123. [13530]
  • 45. Kelleyhouse, David G. 1979. Fire/wildlife relationships in Alaska. In: Hoefs, M.; Russell, D., eds. Wildlife and wildfire: Proceedings of workshop; 1979 November 27-28; Whitehorse, YT. Whitehorse, YT: Yukon Wildlife Branch: 1-36. [14071]
  • 46. Koehler, Gary M. 1990. Population and habitat characteristics of lynx and snowshoe hares in north central Washington. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 68: 845-851. [18030]
  • 65. Rowe, J. S.; Scotter, G. W. 1973. Fire in the boreal forest. Quaternary Research. 3: 444-464. [72]
  • 78. Wolff, Jerry O. 1978. Burning and browsing effects on willow growth in interior Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(1): 135-140. [3500]
  • 60. Patterson, William A., III; Saunders, Karen E.; Horton, L. J. 1983. FIRE REGIMES of the coastal Maine forests of Acadia National Park. OSS 83-3. Boston, MA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, North Atlantic Region, Office of Scientific Studies. 259 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, State and Private Forestry, Broomall, PA. [21361]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Timing of Major Life History Events

More info for the terms: crepuscular, ferns, litter, phase

Diurnal Activity:  Snowshoe hares are crepuscular to nocturnal.  They
are shy and secretive and spend most of the day in shallow depressions,
called forms, scraped out under clumps of ferns, brush thickets, and
downed piles of timber.  They occasionally use the large burrows of
mountain beavers (Aplodontia rufa) as forms.  Diurnal activity level
increases during the breeding season.  Juveniles are usually more active
and less cautious than adults [53].

Breeding Season:  Snowshoe hares are active year-round.  The breeding
season for hares is stimulated by new vegetation and varies with
latitude, location, and yearly events (such as weather conditions and
phase of showshoe hare population cycle) [9,35].  Breeding generally
begins in late December to January and lasts until July or August
[35,53].  In northwestern Oregon male peak breeding activity (as
determined by testes weight) occurs in May and is at the minimum in
November.  In Ontario the peak is in May and in Newfoundland the peak is
in June.  Female estrus begins in March in Newfoundland, Alberta, and
Maine, and in early April in Michigan and Colorado.  First litters of
the year are born from mid-April to May [9].

Gestation and Litter Size:  The gestation period is 35 to 40 days; most
studies report 37days as the average length of gestation.  Litters
average three to five leverets depending on latitude, elevation, and
phase of population cycle, ranging from one to seven [9,53].  Deep
snowpack increases the amount of upper-branch browse available to
snowshoe hares in winter and therefore has a positive relationship with
the nutritional status of breeding adults.  Litters are usually smaller
in the southern sections of snowshoe hare range since there is less
snow.  Newborn snowshoe hares are fully furred, open-eyed, and mobile.
They leave the natal form within a short time after birth, often within
24 hours.  After leaving the birthplace siblings stay near each other
during the day, gathering once each evening to nurse [9,53].  Weaning
occurs at 25 to 28 days except for the last litter of the season which
may nurse for 2 months or longer [64].

Pregnancy Rate and Productivity:  Female snowshoe hares can become
pregnant anytime after the 35th day of gestation.  The second litter can
therefore be conceived before the first litter is born (snowshoe hares
have twin uteri) [9].  Pregnancy rates ranged from 78 to 100 percent for
females during the period of first litter production, 82 to 100 percent
for second litters, and for the periods of third and fourth litters
pregnancy rates vary with population cycle [17].  In Newfoundland the
average number of litters per female per year ranged from 2.9 to 3.5,
and in Alberta the range was from 2.7 to 3.3 [9].  The number of litters
per year varies with phase of population cycle (see below).  In Alberta
the average number of litters per year was almost 3 just after a
population peak and 4 just after the population low [17].  Females
normally first breed as 1-year-olds.  Juvenile breeding is rare and has
only been observed in females from the first litter of the year and only
in years immediately following a low point in the population cycle [9].

Mortality:  In Yukon Territory 30-day survival of radio-tagged leverets
was 46 percent, 15 percent, and 43 percent for the first, second, and
third litter of the year, respectively.  There were no differences in
mortality in plots with food added.  The main proximate cause of
mortality was predation by small mammals including red squirrels
(Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus
parryii).  Littermates tended to live or die together more often than by
chance.  Individual survival was negatively related to litter size and
positively related to body size at birth.  Litter size is negatively
correlated with body size at birth [57].

Population Cycles:  Northern populations of snowshoe hares undergo
cycles that range from 7 to 17 years between population peaks.  The
average time between peaks is approximately 10 years.  The period of
abundance usually lasts for 2 to 5 years followed by a population
decline to lower numbers or local scarcity.  Areas of great abundance
tend to be scattered [36,53].  Populations do not peak simultaneously in
all areas, although there is a great deal of synchronicity in northern
latitudes [3].  From 1931 to 1948 the cycle was synchronized within 1 or
2 years over most of Canada and Alaska, despite differences in predators
and food supplies [68].  In central Alberta low snowshoe hare density
occurred in 1965 with 42 to 74 snowshoe hares per 100 acres (40 ha).
The population peak occurred in November 1970 with 2,830 to 5,660
snowshoe hares per 100 acres (40 ha) [44].  In the southern parts of its
range snowshoe hare populations do not fluctuate radically [46].

Exclosure experiments in Alberta indicated that browsing by snowshoe
hares during population peaks has the greatest impact on palatable
species, thus further reducing the amount of available foods.  In this
study there was insufficient nutritious young browse available to
sustain the number of snowshoe hares present in the peak years (1971 and
1972) in winter [61].
  • 3. Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 438 p. [25152]
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 17. Cary, John R.; Keith, Lloyd B. 1979. Reproductive change in the 10-year cycle of snowshoe hares. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 57(2): 375-390. [25111]
  • 36. Grange, Wallace. 1965. Fire and tree growth relationships to snowshoe rabbits. In: Proceedings, 4th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1965 March 18-19; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahasee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 111-123. [13530]
  • 44. Keith, Lloyd B.; Windberg, Larmar A. 1978. A demographic analysis of the snowshoe hare cycle. Wildlife Monographs. 58: 1-59. [25219]
  • 46. Koehler, Gary M. 1990. Population and habitat characteristics of lynx and snowshoe hares in north central Washington. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 68: 845-851. [18030]
  • 53. Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 496 p. [10238]
  • 57. O'Donoghue, Mark. 1994. Early survival of juvenile snowshoe hares. Ecology. 75(6): 1582-1592. [25075]
  • 61. Pease, James L.; Vowles, Richard H.; Keith, Lloyd B. 1979. Interaction of snowshoe hares and woody vegetation. Journal of Wildlife Management. 43(1): 43-60. [12465]
  • 64. Rongstad, Orrin J.; Tester, John R. 1971. Behavior and maternal relations of young snowshoe hares. Journal of Wildlife Management. 35(2): 338-346. [25106]
  • 35. Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289-307. [25020]
  • 68. Sinclair, A. R. E.; Gosline, J. M.; Holdsworth, G.; [and others]. 1993. Can the solar cycle and climate synchronize the snowshoe hare cycle in Canada? Evidence from tree rings and ice cores. The American Naturalist. 141(2): 173-198. [21458]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Basically solitary except when breeding. In some areas, populations fluctuate widely over 10-11 year cycle. Densities may vary from 1 to several hundred per square mile (Keith and Windberg 1978). In Wisconsin, fall populations of less than 10 hares frequenting patches of prime habitat of less than 5 ha are not likely to persist long without ingress; in the same area, coyote predation was the overwhelming determinant of survival and population trend (Keith et al. 1993). See Sinclair et al. (1988) for recent data on population dynamics and food quality and supply.

Taken by many avian and mammalian predators, including ground squirrels and red squirrels (Yukon, O'Donoghue and Stuart 1993).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Snowshoe hares have excellent hearing, which helps them to identify approaching predators. They are not particularly vocal animals, but may make loud squealing sounds when captured. When fighting with each other, these animals may hiss and snort. Most communication between hares involves thumping the hind feet against the ground.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Communication and Perception

Snowshoe hares have acute hearing, which presumably helps them to identify approaching predators. They are not particularly vocal animals, but may make loud squealing sounds when captured. When engaging in aggressive activites, these animals may hiss and snort. Most communication between hares involves thumping the hind feet against the ground.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Cyclicity

Comments: Mainly crepuscular and nocturnal.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In the wild as much as 85% of snowshoe hares do not live longer than one year. Individuals may live up to 5 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
5 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5.0 years.

  • Carey, J., D. Judge. 2002. "Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish" (On-line). Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. Accessed May 18, 2007 at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan/Longevity

In the wild as much as 85% of snowshoe hares do not live longer than one year. Individuals may live up to 5 years in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
5 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5.0 years.

  • Carey, J., D. Judge. 2002. "Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Fish" (On-line). Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. Accessed May 18, 2007 at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: In the wild, these animals do not generally live more than 3 years and most die within their first year of life. Potential longevity has been estimated at 5 years (Ronald Nowak 1999). One wild born specimen was about 5.4 years of age when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005). Anecdotal reports of animals living up to 8 years have not been confirmed. Further studies are necessary to better estimate the maximum longevity of this species.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Groups of males gather around females who are ready to mate, following the females as they move about their home ranges. Both males and females have multiple mates.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Breeding season for snowshoe hares runs from mid-March through August. Pregnancy lasts 36 days. When labor approaches, female hares become highly aggressive and intolerant of males. They go to a birthing area, where they have prepared an area of packed down grasses. Females give birth to litters of up to 8 young, although the average litter size is usually two to four young. Litters born late in the season tend to be larger than litters born in the spring. Females may have up to four litters a year, depending on enviromental conditions. Males and females become mature within a year of their birth.

Breeding interval: Female snowshoe hares may give birth every month during the breeding season.

Breeding season: Breeding season for snowshoe hares runs from mid-March through August.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 7.

Average number of offspring: 2.82.

Range gestation period: 36 to 40 days.

Average gestation period: 37.2 days.

Range weaning age: 14 to 28 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 (high) years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 (high) years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 61.03 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Young snowshoe hares are born fully furred and able to move around. The young hide in separate places during the day, only coming together for 5 to 10 minutes at a time to nurse. The female alone cares for them until they are weaned and ready to go off on their own, about four weeks after they are born.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Groups of males congregate around estrus females, following the females as they move about their home ranges. Mating is polygynandrous (both males and females have multiple mates).

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Breeding season for snowshoe hares runs from mid-March through August, when the testes of the male begin to regress. Gestation lasts 36 days. When parturition approaches, female hares become highly aggressive and intolerant of males. They retire to a birthing area, where they have prepared an area of packed down grasses. Females give birth to litters of up to 8 young, although the average litter size is usually two to four young. Litters born late in the season tend to be larger than litters born in the spring. Females are polyestrous and may have up to four litters a year, depending on enviromental conditions. Males and females become mature within a year of their birth.

Breeding interval: Female snowshoe hares may give birth every month during the breeding season.

Breeding season: Breeding season for snowshoe hares runs from mid-March through August.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 7.

Average number of offspring: 2.82.

Range gestation period: 36 to 40 days.

Average gestation period: 37.2 days.

Range weaning age: 14 to 28 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 (high) years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 (high) years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 61.03 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Young snowshoe hares are precocial. They are born fully furred and able to locomote. The young hide in separate locations during the day, only coming together for 5 to 10 minutes at a time to nurse. The female alone cares for them until they are weaned and disperse, about four weeks after they are born.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Across the range, breeding season extends from February to mid-August. Gestation lasts 36-37 days. Young are born May-August; 1-4 litters/year. Litter size is 1-6, averages 3. Young are weaned at about 4 weeks (last litter of the season sometimes up to 6 weeks). Sexually mature in first spring (second calendar year). Lives usually no more than about 2 years, but up to about 5 years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Murray, D. & Smith, A.T.

Reviewer/s
Johnston, C.H. and Smith, A.T. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Lepus americanus is a widespread species. Populations seem to be healthy, overall, although there exists concern over the status of southeastern USA populations. The status of distinct subspecies along the Pacific coast is unclear.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/least concern
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Snowshoes hares are common throughout their range. Their rapid reproduction makes it unlikely that they will become a major concern for conservationists.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Information on state- and province-level protection status
of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

U.S. Federal Legal Status

None [84]
  • 84. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Endangered Species Program, [Online]. Available: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/. [86564]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Snowshoes hares are common throughout their range. Their rapid reproduction makes it unlikely that they will become a major concern for conservationists.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
Population is more or less continuous in Canada and Alaska but patchily distributed in the contiguous USA. Populations in the boreal forest fluctuate according to a 10-year cycle, where their densities may vary 100-fold over the span of several years. Southern populations may be noncyclic or fluctuate with reduced amplitude.

The status of southeastern populations is unclear, but the range limit may be receding northward. This may be related to habitat loss, increase in predator (especially coyote) numbers, and perhaps climate change and loss of snow during winter.

Population Trend
Stable
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
Southern populations may be subject to excessive habitat loss and fragmentation, perhaps climate change plays a contributory role as well.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: Populations declines in some parts of the Appalachians (e.g., Virginia) have been due in part to declining habitat quality (loss of adequate cover related in part to forest maturation) (Handley 1991). Heavy browsing by large deer populations can degrade habitat for snowshoe hare.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
In some southern states, hunting has been closed either temporarily or permanently to try to restore populations. The efficacy of such efforts usually has not been monitored carefully. In some cases hares have been stocked in an attempt to bolster the populations. This method also seems to have limited utility because captive-bred hares are highly vulnerable to predation and transplanted wild hares often succumb to death in captivity during transport. Conservation and management efforts have been recommended for the New Mexico extent of L. americanus, stemming from the restricted distribution and low abundance (Frey and Malaney 2006).

Lepus americanus is known to occur in the following U.S. National Wildlife Refuges (NWR):
Tetlin NWR (as of 2003)
Sherburne NWR
Seney NWR (as of 2004, reported as abundant)
Innoko NWR
Koyukuk NWR
Red Rock Lakes NWR (found in forested areas)
Kodiak NWR (as of 2006, reported as common)
Alaskan Peninsula/Becharof NWR (as of 2003)
Rachel Carson NWR (as of 2001, reported as common).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Use of Fire in Population Management

Prescribed fire could be used to improve snowshoe hare habitat by
creating openings and early successional habitat.  Fire at less than 5-
to 10-year intervals may result in repeated increases and decreases in
snowshoe hare populations [36].
  • 36. Grange, Wallace. 1965. Fire and tree growth relationships to snowshoe rabbits. In: Proceedings, 4th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1965 March 18-19; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahasee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 111-123. [13530]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Management Considerations

More info for the terms: cover, density, natural, phase, selection, tree

The snowshoe hare is an economically important species; its economic
impact varies with season, region, and population cycle [9].  It is
important prey for many furbearers (coyote, foxes, fishers, etc.), but
does not itself produce economically important fur.  Its importance as
prey creates secondary effects during population lows; predators seeking
other food sources often increase predation rates on preferred game
species such as ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) [42].  The snowshoe hare
is a small game animal and is important as human food in some remote
areas [3].  It is a pest in tree plantations [53] and causes damage to
both managed and unmanaged conifer stands in the Pacific Northwest [35].

Importance as Prey:  Management of furbearers and sensitive predator
species is often dependent on snowshoe hare management as they are a
major prey item for many carnivores.  Lynx, considered a sensitive
species in Washington, can be maintained only with management for their
main prey, the snowshoe hare.  In north-central Washington a patchwork
of early successional stands favored by snowshoe hares and old-growth
forest needed by lynx for denning is recommended [83].  Logging and
thinning units of less than 40 acres (16 ha) encourage natural forest
regeneration; it is recommended that management units be greater than 20
to 25 acres (8-10 ha) (i.e., larger than the average snowshoe hare home
range) to encourage snowshoe hare use and thus benefit lynx [47].  In
Alberta winter coyote density is directly related to snowshoe hare
abundance.  Coyotes switch to alternate prey species only when snowshoe
hares become relatively scarce [76].

Black and others [10] surveyed animal damage to conifer plantations in
Oregon and Washington based on data obtained from 1963 to 1975.
Snowshoe hare damage was substantial to Douglas-fir plantations; in many
cases tree damage was second only to that caused by mule deer
(Odocoileus hemionus).  It must be noted that snowshoe hare populations
peaked in 1971 and 1972.  During population lows most damage to conifer
plantations consists of clipping of small-diameter stems, twigs, and
branches.  Barking becomes serious at high snowshoe hare densities [35].

Snowshoe hare damage birch seedlings by clipping twigs, terminal shoots,
and stems, or by gnawing bark and partially or completely girdling trees
[41].

Control:  All direct control methods are effective only in the short
term.  Lethal control methods are subject to state and local
regulations.  Shooting snowshoe hares is costly of time and personnel,
and is not always effective.  Trapping is costly.  Toxic baits are not
always legal.  Nonlethal methods include repellents, which can be
effective but costly, and exclusion fencing, which is also costly
[27,35].

Indirect control of snowshoe hares consists of Habitat management to
reduce cover.  Silvicultural practices can be modified to reduce
snowshoe hare use of an area; brushy areas attract snowshoe hares.
Second-growth stands with dense brushy understories and high sapling
densities are optimum snowshoe hare habitat.  Thinning often creates
good snowshoe hare habitat when it encourages denser growth of shrubs
[35].  Snowshoe hares also favor clearcut blocks adjacent to pole-size
timber; edges are the areas of greatest snowshoe hare activity [35].

In British Columbia population density and recruitment of snowshoe hares
increased significantly in thinned stands of lodgepole pine during the
first winter but declined thereafter.  Thinning overstocked lodgepole
pine had little or no effect on reproduction or survival of snowshoe
hares but reduced average body weights [72].  In aspen-birch stands
reduction of coniferous cover in cutover areas reduces use by snowshoe
hares [41].  Evans [27] suggested that snowshoe hare damage is probably
reduced where slash and brush are disposed of by burning.  In quaking
aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands in Alberta, intensive regeneration
and periodic removal of competing brush promotes fast early growth and
reduces snowshoe hare damage [26].  Other recommendations include timing
conifer plantation establishment during the low phase of the snowshoe
hare population cycle, using larger planting stock with a reduced
fertilizer regime, and selection of tree species based on snowshoe hare
preferences [35,71,72].

The possibility of raising Douglas-fir stock that is less palatable to
snowshoe hares has been discussed [23].

Parasites and diseases of snowshoe hares have been studied extensively
and were summarized by Bittner and Rongstad [9].
  • 3. Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 438 p. [25152]
  • 9. Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 146-163. [25069]
  • 10. Black, Hugh C.; Dimock, Edward J., II; Evans, James; Rochelle, James A. 1979. Animal damage to coniferous plantations in Oregon and Washington. Part I. A survey, 1963-1975. Res. Bull. 25. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, School of Forestry. 43 p. [13683]
  • 23. Dimock, Edward J., II. 1974. Animal resistant Douglas-fir: how likely and how soon? In: Black, Hugh C., ed. Wildlife and forest management in the Pacific Northwest: Proceedings of a symposium; 1973 September 11-12; Corvallis, OR. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, School of Forestry, Forest Research Laboratory: 95-102. [7996]
  • 26. Drew, T. J. 1988. Managing white spruce in Alberta's mixedwood forest: the dilemma. In: Samoil, J. K., ed. Management and utilization of northern mixedwoods: Proceedings of a symposium; 1988 April 11-14; Edmonton, AB. Inf. Rep. NOR-X-296. Edmonton, AB: Canadian Forestry Service, Northern Forestrty Centre: 35-40. [13045]
  • 27. Evans, James. 1981. General biology of ten mammals that affect reforestation in southwestern Oregon. In: Hobbs, S. D; Helgerson, O. T., eds. Reforestation of skeletal soils: Proceedings of a workshop; 1981 November 17-19; Medford, OR. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University, Forest Research Laboratory, Forestry Intensified Research Program (FIR) Adaptive Phase: 30-36. [7143]
  • 41. Jordan, James S.; Rushmore, Francis M. 1969. Animal damage to birch. In: The birch symposium: Proceedings; 1969 August 19-21; Durham, NH. Res. Pap. NE-146. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 155-163. [15354]
  • 42. Keith, Lloyd B. 1974. Some features of population dynamics in mammals. In: Proceedings, International Union of Game Biologists. 11: 17-58. [25161]
  • 47. Koehler, Gary M.; Brittell, J. David. 1990. Managing spruce-fir habitat for lynx and snowshoe hares. Journal of Forestry. 88(10): 10-14. [13599]
  • 53. Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 496 p. [10238]
  • 72. Sullivan, T. P.; Sullivan, D. S. 1988. Influence of stand thinning on snowshoe hare population dynamics and feeding damage in lodgepole pine forest. Journal of Applied Ecology. 25: 791-805. [25077]
  • 76. Todd, Arlen W.; Keith, Lloyd B.; Fischer, Charles A. 1981. Population ecology of coyotes during a fluctation of snowshoe hares. Journal of Wildlife Management. 45(3): 629-640. [25108]
  • 83. Zebley, Dawn Marie. 1992. Lynx. Women in Natural Resources. 13(3): 24-25. [19297]
  • 35. Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289-307. [25020]
  • 71. Sullivan, T. P.; Harestad, A. S.; Wikeem, B. M. 1990. Control of mammal damage. In: Lavender, D. P.; Parish, R.; Johnson, C. M.; [and others], eds. Regenerating British Columbia's Forests. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press: 302-318. [10722]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Management Requirements: See Williamson (no date) for information on habitat management.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hares may damage trees, especially during periods of high population density.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Snowshoe hares are used widely as a source of wild meat. In addition to this, they are an important prey species for many predators whose furs are highly valued.

Positive Impacts: food

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: BioKIDS Critter Catalog

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hares may damage trees, especially during periods of high population density.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Snowshoe hares are utilized widely as a source of wild meat. In addition to this, they are an important prey species for many predators whose furs are highly valued.

Positive Impacts: food

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Snowshoe hare

The snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), also called the varying hare, or snowshoe rabbit, is a species of hare found in North America. It has the name "snowshoe" because of the large size of its hind feet and the marks its tail leaves. The animal's feet prevent it from sinking into the snow when it hops and walks. Its feet also have fur on the soles to protect it from freezing temperatures.

For camouflage, its fur turns white during the winter and rusty brown during the summer. Its flanks are white year-round. The snowshoe hare is also distinguishable by the black tufts of fur on the edge of its ears. Its ears are shorter than those of most other hares.

In summer, it feeds on plants such as, grass, ferns and leaves; in winter, it eats twigs, the bark from trees, and buds from flowers and plants and, similar to the Arctic hare, has been known to steal meat from baited traps.[3] Hares are carnivorous under the availability of dead animals, and have been known to eat dead rodents such as mice due to low availability of protein in an herbivorous diet. It can sometimes be seen feeding in small groups. This animal is mainly active at night and does not hibernate.

The snowshoe hare may have up to four litters in a year which average three to eight young. Males compete for females, and females may breed with several males.

Taxonomy and distribution[edit]

Snowshoe hares occur from Newfoundland east to western Alaska; south in the Sierra Nevada to central California; in the Rocky Mountains to southern Utah and northern New Mexico; and in the Appalachian Mountains to North Carolina and Tennessee.[4] Locations of subspecies are as follows:[5]

  • Lepus americanus americanus (Erxleben) – Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, and North Dakota
  • L. a. cascadensis (Nelson) – British Columbia and Washington
  • L. a. columbiensis (Rhoads) – British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington
  • L. a. dalli (Merriam) – Mackenzie District, British Columbia, Alaska, Yukon
  • L. a. klamathensis (Merriam) – Oregon and California
  • L. a. oregonus (Orr) – Oregon
  • L. a. pallidus (Cowan) – British Columbia
  • L. a. phaeonotus (J. A. Allen) – Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota
  • L. a. pineus (Dalquest) – British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington
  • L. a. seclusus (Baker and Hankins) – Wyoming
  • L. a. struthopus (Bangs) – Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Maine
  • L. a. tahoensis (Orr) – California, western Nevada
  • L. a. virginianus (Harlan) – Ontario, Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee
  • L. a. washingtonii (Baird) – British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon

Plant communities[edit]

Snowshoe hares are primarily found in boreal forests and upper montane forests; within these forests, they favor habitats with a dense shrub layer. In the Pacific Northwest, snowshoe hares occupy diverse habitats, including mature conifers (mostly Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii] and variants), immature conifers, alder (Alnus spp.)/salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)/salal (Gaultheria shallon), and cedar (Thuja spp.) swamps.[6] In western Oregon, snowshoe hares were present in brush patches of vine maple (Acer circinatum), willows (Salix spp.), rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.), and other shrubs.[7]

In Utah, snowshoe hares used Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli) in the northern portion of the Gambel oak range.[8] In the Southwest, the southernmost populations of snowshoe hares occur in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico, in subalpine scrub: narrow bands of shrubby and prostrate conifers at and just below timberline that are usually composed of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), limber pine (P. flexilis), and/or common juniper (Juniperus communis).[9]

In Minnesota, snowshoe hares use jack pine (P. banksiana) uplands, edges, tamarack (Larix laricina) bogs, black spruce (Picea mariana) bogs, and sedge (Carex spp.), alder, and scrub fens.[10] In New England, snowshoe hares favor second-growth aspen (Populus spp.)-birch (Betula spp.) near conifers, but other forest types occupied by snowshoe hares include aspens, paper birch (B. papyrifera), northern hardwoods, red maple (A. rubrum), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), red spruce (Picea rubens)-balsam fir, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), northern red oak (Quercus rubra), oak (Quercus spp.)-pine (Pinus spp.), eastern white pine (P. strobus)-northern red oak-red maple, and eastern white pine. Snowshoe hares also use shrub swamps dominated by buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), alders, and silky dogwood (Cornus ammomum).[11] Further details on plant communities used by snowshoe hares in different regions are in Bittner and Rongstad.[4]

Timing of major life events[edit]

Snowshoe hares are crepuscular to nocturnal. They are shy and secretive and spend most of the day in shallow depressions, called forms, scraped out under clumps of ferns, brush thickets, and downed piles of timber. They occasionally use the large burrows of mountain beavers (Aplodontia rufa) as forms. Diurnal activity level increases during the breeding season. Juveniles are usually more active and less cautious than adults.[6]

Snowshoe hares are active year-round. The breeding season for hares is stimulated by new vegetation and varies with latitude, location, and yearly events (such as weather conditions and phase of snowshoe hare population cycle).[4][12] Breeding generally begins in late December to January and lasts until July or August .[6][12] In northwestern Oregon, male peak breeding activity (as determined by testes weight) occurs in May and is at the minimum in November. In Ontario, the peak is in May and in Newfoundland, the peak is in June. Female estrus begins in March in Newfoundland, Alberta, and Maine, and in early April in Michigan and Colorado. First litters of the year are born from mid-April to May.[4]

The gestation period is 35 to 40 days; most studies report 37 days as the average length of gestation. Litters average three to five leverets depending on latitude, elevation, and phase of population cycle, ranging from one to seven.[4][6] Deep snowpack increases the amount of upper-branch browse available to snowshoe hares in winter, and therefore has a positive relationship with the nutritional status of breeding adults. Litters are usually smaller in the southern sections of their range since there is less snow. Newborns are fully furred, open-eyed, and mobile. They leave the natal form within a short time after birth, often within 24 hours. After leaving the birthplace, siblings stay near each other during the day, gathering once each evening to nurse.[4][6] Weaning occurs at 25 to 28 days except for the last litter of the season, which may nurse for two months or longer.[13]

Female snowshoe hares can become pregnant anytime after the 35th day of gestation. The second litter can therefore be conceived before the first litter is born (snowshoe hares have twin uteri).[4] Pregnancy rates ranged from 78 to 100% for females during the period of first litter production, 82 to 100% for second litters, and for the periods of third and fourth litters pregnancy rates vary with population cycle. In Newfoundland, the average number of litters per female per year ranged from 2.9 to 3.5, and in Alberta the range was from 2.7 to 3.3.[4] The number of litters per year varies with phase of population cycle (see below). In Alberta the average number of litters per year was almost 3 just after a population peak and 4 just after the population low. Females normally first breed as 1-year-olds. Juvenile breeding is rare and has only been observed in females from the first litter of the year and only in years immediately following a low point in the population cycle.[4]

In Yukon, 30-day survival of radio-tagged leverets was 46%, 15%, and 43% for the first, second, and third litters of the year, respectively. There were no differences in mortality in plots with food added. The main proximate cause of mortality was predation by small mammals, including red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii). Littermates tended to live or die together more often than by chance. Individual survival was negatively related to litter size and positively related to body size at birth. Litter size is negatively correlated with body size at birth.[14]

Northern populations of snowshoe hares undergo cycles that range from seven to 17 years between population peaks. The average time between peaks is approximately 10 years. The period of abundance usually lasts for two to five years, followed by a population decline to lower numbers or local scarcity. Areas of great abundance tend to be scattered.[6] Populations do not peak simultaneously in all areas, although a great deal of synchronicity occurs in northern latitudes.[15] From 1931 to 1948, the cycle was synchronized within one or two years over most of Canada and Alaska, despite differences in predators and food supplies.[16] In central Alberta, low snowshoe hare density occurred in 1965, with 42 to 74 snowshoe hares per 100 acres (40 ha). The population peak occurred in November 1970 with 2,830 to 5,660 snowshoe hares per 100 acres (40 ha). In the southern parts of its range, snowshoe hare populations do not fluctuate radically.[17]

Exclosure experiments in Alberta indicated browsing by snowshoe hares during population peaks has the greatest impact on palatable species, thus further reducing the amount of available foods. In this study, insufficient nutritious young browse was available to sustain the number of snowshoe hares present in the peak years (1971 and 1972) in winter.[18]

Preferred habitat[edit]

Major variables in habitat quality include average visual obstruction and browse biomass. Snowshoe hares prefer young forests with abundant understories. The presence of cover is the primary determinant of habitat quality, and is more significant than food availability or species composition.[19] Species composition does, however, influence population density; dense softwood understories support greater snowshoe hare density than hardwoods because of cover quality. In Maine, female snowshoe hares were observed to be more common on sites with less cover but more nutritious forage; males tended to be found on sites with heavier cover.[20]

Winter browse availability depends on height of understory brush and winter snow depth; 6-to-8-foot-tall (1.8 to 2.4 m) saplings with narrow stem diameters are required for winter browse in heavy snow.[21]

In northern regions, snowshoe hares occupy conifer and mixed forests in all stages of succession, but early successional forests foster peak abundance. Deciduous forests are usually occupied only in early stages of succession. In New England, snowshoe hares preferred second-growth deciduous, coniferous, and mixed woods with dense brushy understories; they appear to prefer shrubby old-field areas, early- to mid-successional burns, shrub-swamps, bogs, and upper montane krumholz vegetation.[11] In Maine, snowshoe hares were more active in clearcut areas than in partially cut or uncut areas. Sapling densities were highest on 12- to 15-year-old plots; these plots were used more than younger stands.[22] In northern Utah, they occupied all the later stages of succession on quaking aspen and spruce-fir, but were not observed in meadows. In Alberta, snowshoe hares use upland shrub-sapling stages of regenerating aspens (either postfire or postharvest). In British Columbia overstocked juvenile lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) stands formed optimal snowshoe hare habitat.[23]

In western Washington, most unburned, burned, or scarified clearcuts will normally be fully occupied by snowshoe hares within four to five years, as vegetation becomes dense.[24] In older stands (more than 25 years), stem density begins to decline and cover for snowshoe hares decreases.[17] However, in north-central Washington, they may not colonize clearcuts until six or seven years, and it may take 20 to 25 years for their density to reach maximum. Winter snowshoe hare pellet counts were highest in 20-year-old lodgepole pine stands, lower in older lodgepole stands, and lowest in spruce-dominated stands.[17] In western Oregon, snowshoe hares were abundant only in early successional stages, including stable brushfields.[7] In west-central Oregon, an old-growth Douglas-fir forest was clearcut and monitored through 10 years of succession. A few snowshoe hares were noted in adjacent virgin forest plots; they represented widely scattered, sparse populations. One snowshoe hare was observed on the disturbed plot 2.5 years after it had been clearcut and burned; at this stage, ground cover was similar to that of the uncut forest. By 9 years after disturbance, snowshoe hare density had increased markedly.[25]

In western Washington, snowshoe hares routinely used steep slopes where cover was adequate; most studies, however, suggest they tend to prefer gentle slopes.[24] Moonlight increases snowshoe hare vulnerability to predation, particularly in winter. They tend to avoid open areas during bright phases of the moon and during bright periods of a single night.[26] Their activity usually shifts from coniferous understories in winter to hardwood understories in summer.[27]

Vegetative structure plays an important role in the size of snowshoe hare home ranges. Snowshoe hares wander up to 5 miles (8 km) when food is scarce.[15] In Montana home ranges are smaller in brushy woods than in open woods. In Colorado and Utah, the average home range of both sexes was 20 acres (8.1 ha). On Montreal Island of Quebec, the average daily range for both sexes was 4 acres (1.6 ha) in old-field mixed woods. In Montana, the home range averaged 25 acres (10 ha) for males and 19 acres (7.6 ha) for females.[28] In Oregon the average snowshoe hare home range was 14.6 acres (5.9 ha).[29]

Cover requirements[edit]

Snowshoe hares require dense, brushy, usually coniferous cover; thermal and escape cover are especially important for young hares.[12] Low brush provides hiding, escape, and thermal cover. Heavy cover 10 feet (3 m) above ground provides protection from avian predators, and heavy cover 3.3 feet (1 m) tall provides cover from terrestrial predators. Overwinter survival increases with increased cover.[19] A wide variety of habitat types are used if cover is available. Base visibility in good snowshoe hare habitat ranges from 2% at 16.5 feet (5 m) distance to 0% at 66 feet (20 m). Travel cover is slightly more open, ranging from 14.7% visibility at 16.5 feet (5 m) to 2.6% at 66 feet (20 m). Areas with horizontal vegetation density of 40 to 100% at 50 feet (15 m) are adequate snowshoe hare habitat in Utah.[21]

Food habits[edit]

Snowshoe hares eat a variety of plant materials. Forage type varies with season. Succulent green vegetation is consumed when available from spring to fall; after the first frost, buds, twigs, evergreen needles, and bark form the bulk of snowshoe hare diets until spring greenup.[4][6] Snowshoe hares typically feed at night and follow well-worn forest paths to feed on various plants and trees.[30]

Winter[edit]

Snowshoe hares prefer branches, twigs, and small stems up to 0.25 inch (6.3 mm) diameter; larger stems are sometimes used in winter.[12] In Yukon, they normally eat fast-growing birches and willows, and avoid spruce. At high densities, however, the apical shoots of small spruce are eaten.[16] The snowshoe hare winter diet is dominated by bog birch (Betula glandulosa), which is preferred but not always available. Greyleaf willow (Salix glauca) is eaten most often when bog birch is not available. Buffaloberry (Shepherdia canadensis) is the fourth most common diet item. White spruce (Picea glauca) is eaten, but not preferred. In Alaska, spruce, willows, and alders comprise 75% of snowshoe hare diets; spruce needles make up nearly 40% of the diet.[31] In northwestern Oregon, winter foods include needles and tender bark of Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla); leaves and green twigs of salal; buds, twigs, and bark of willows; and green herbs.[6] In north-central Washington, willows and birches are not plentiful; snowshoe hares browse the tips of lodgepole pine seedlings. In Utah, winter foods include Douglas-fir, willows, snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), maples, and serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.). In Minnesota, aspens, willows, hazelnut (Corylus spp.), ferns (Pteridophyta spp.), birches, alders, sumacs (Rhus spp.), and strawberries (Fragaria spp.) are winter foods. Winter foods in New York include eastern white pine, red pine (Pinus resinosa), white spruce, paper birch, and aspens.[32] In Ontario, sugar maple (Acer saccharum), striped maple (A. pensylvanicum), red maple, other deciduous species, northern white-cedar (T. occidentalis), balsam fir, beaked hazelnut (C. cornuta), and buffaloberry were heavily barked.[33] In New Brunswick, snowshoe hares consumed northern white-cedar, spruces, American beech (Fagus grandifolia), balsam fir, mountain maple (A. spicatum), and many other species of browse. In Newfoundland, paper birch is preferred.[34] Further details on regional food preferences are summarized in:[4]

Spring, summer and autumn[edit]

In Alaska, snowshoe hares consume new leaves of blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), new shoots of field horsetails (Equisetum arvense), and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) in spring. Grasses are not a major item due to low availability associated with sites that have adequate cover. In summer, leaves of willows, black spruce, birches, and bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) are also consumed. Black spruce is the most heavily used and the most common species in the area. Pen trials suggest black spruce is not actually preferred. Roses (Rosa spp.) were preferred, but a minor dietary item, as they were not common in the study area.[31] In northwest Oregon, summer foods include grasses, clovers (Trifolium spp.), other forbs, and some woody plants, including Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, and young leaves and twigs of salal.[6] In Minnesota, aspens, willows, grasses, birches, alders, sumacs, and strawberries are consumed when green.[32] In Ontario, summer diets consist of clovers, grasses, and forbs.[33]

Predators[edit]

The snowshoe hare is a major prey item for a number of predators. Major predators include Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), bobcats (L. rufus), fishers (Martes pennanti), American martens (M. americana), long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata), minks (M. vison), foxes (Vulpes and Urocyon spp.), coyote (Canis latrans), domestic dogs (C. familiaris), domestic cats (Felis catus), wolves (C. lupus), mountain lions (Felis concolor), great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), barred owls (Strix varia), spotted owls (S. occidentalis), other owls, red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), northern goshawks (Accipiter gentilis), other hawks (Buteonidae), golden eagles (Aquila chryseatos), and crows and ravens.[4][6][12] Other predators include black bears (Ursus americanus).[4] In Glacier National Park snowshoe hares are a prey item of Rocky Mountain wolves (Canis lupus irremotus).[35]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "Lepus americanus".

  1. ^ Hoffman, R. S.; Smith, A. T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Murray, D. & Smith, A.T. (2008). "Lepus americanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "Snowshoe Hare". eNature: FieldGuides. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bittner, Steven L.; Rongstad, Orrin J. 1982. Snowshoe hare and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, C. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economies. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press: 146–163
  5. ^ Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: John Wiley and Sons ISBN 1-930665-31-8
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Maser, Chris; Mate, Bruce R.; Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1981. Natural history of Oregon Coast mammals. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-133. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range Experiment Station
  7. ^ a b Allen, Hollis Howard. 1969. The inter-relationship of salmonberry and Douglas-fir in cutover areas. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University
  8. ^ Harper, Kimball T.; Wagstaff, Fred J.; Kunzler, Lynn M. 1985. Biology management of the Gambel oak vegetative type: a literature review. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-179. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station
  9. ^ Brown, David E. 1982. Subalpine scrub. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest—United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1–4): 81
  10. ^ Pietz, Pamela J.; Tester, John R. (1983). "Habitat selection by snowshoe hares in North Central Minnesota". Journal of Wildlife Management 47 (3): 686–696. doi:10.2307/3808604. JSTOR 3808604. 
  11. ^ a b DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko; Leak, William B.; Lanier, John W. 1992. New England wildlife: management of forested habitats. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-144. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station
  12. ^ a b c d e Giusti, Gregory A.; Schmidt, Robert H.; Timm, Robert M.; [and others]. 1992. The lagomorphs: rabbits, hares, and pika. In: Silvicultural approaches to animal damage management in Pacific Northwest forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-287. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: 289–307.
  13. ^ Rongstad, Orrin J.; Tester, John R (1971). "Behavior and maternal relations of young snowshoe hares". Journal of Wildlife Management 35 (2): 338–346. doi:10.2307/3799610. JSTOR 3799610. 
  14. ^ O'Donoghue, Mark (1994). "Early survival of juvenile snowshoe hares". Ecology 75 (6): 1582–1592. doi:10.2307/1939619. JSTOR 1939619. 
  15. ^ a b Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
  16. ^ a b Sinclair, AR; Gosline, JM; Holdsworth, G; Krebs, CJ; Boutin, S; Smith, JN; Boonstra, R; Dale, M (1993). "Can the solar cycle and climate synchronize the snowshoe hare cycle in Canada? Evidence from tree rings and ice cores". The American naturalist 141 (2): 173–98. doi:10.1086/285468. PMID 19426078. 
  17. ^ a b c Koehler, Gary M. (1990). "Population and habitat characteristics of lynx and snowshoe hares in north central Washington". Canadian Journal of Zoology 68 (5): 845. doi:10.1139/z90-122. 
  18. ^ Pease, James L.; Vowles, Richard H.; Keith, Lloyd B (1979). "Interaction of snowshoe hares and woody vegetation". Journal of Wildlife Management 43 (1): 43–6. doi:10.2307/3800634. JSTOR 3800634. 
  19. ^ a b Litvaitis, John A.; Sherburne, James A.; Bissonette, John A (1985). "Influence of understory characteristics on snowshoe hare habitat use and density". Journal of Wildlife Management 49 (4): 866–873. doi:10.2307/3801359. JSTOR 3801359. 
  20. ^ Litvaitis, John A (1990). "Differential habitat use by sexes of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus)". Journal of Mammalogy 71 (4): 520–523. doi:10.2307/1381790. JSTOR 1381790. 
  21. ^ a b Wolfe, Michael L.; Debyle, Norbert V.; Winchell, Clark S.; McCabe, Thomas R. (1982). "Snowshoe hare cover relationships in northern Utah". Journal of Wildlife Management 46 (3): 662–670. doi:10.2307/3808557. JSTOR 3808557. 
  22. ^ Monthey, Roger W. 1986. Responses of snowshoe hares, Lepus americanus, to timber harvesting in northern Maine. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100(4): 568–570
  23. ^ Sullivan, T. P.; Sullivan, D. S. (1988). "Influence of stand thinning on snowshoe hare population dynamics and feeding damage in lodgepole pine forest". Journal of Applied Ecology 25 (3): 791–805. doi:10.2307/2403746. JSTOR 2403746. 
  24. ^ a b Campbell, Dan L. 1982. Influence of site preparation on animal use and animal damage to tree seedlings. In: Baumgartner, David M., compiler. Site preparation and fuels management on steep terrain: Proceedings of a symposium; 1982 February 15–17; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 93–101
  25. ^ Gashwiler, Jay S (1970). "Plant and mammal changes on a clearcut in west-central Oregon". Ecology 51 (6): 1018–1026. doi:10.2307/1933628. JSTOR 1933628. 
  26. ^ Gilbert, B. Scott; Boutin, Stan (1991). "Effect of moonlight on winter activity of snowshoe hares". Arctic and Alpine Research 23 (1): 61–65. doi:10.2307/1551438. JSTOR 1551438. 
  27. ^ O'Donoghue, Mark. 1983. Seasonal habitat selection by snowshoe hare in eastern Maine. Transactions, Northeast Section of the Wildlife Society. 40: 100–107
  28. ^ Adams, Lowell (1959). "An analysis of a population of snowshoe hares in northwestern Montana". Ecological Monographs 29 (2): 148–153. JSTOR 1942201. 
  29. ^ O'Farrell, Thomas P. (1965). "Home range and ecology of snowshoe hares in interior Alaska". Journal of Mammalogy 46 (3): 406–418. doi:10.2307/1377626. JSTOR 1377626. 
  30. ^ Snowshoe Hares, Snowshoe Hare Pictures, Snowshoe Hare Facts – National Geographic. Animals.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-11.
  31. ^ a b Wolff, Jerry O (1978). "Food habits of snowshoe hare in interior Alaska". Journal of Wildlife Management 42 (1): 148–153. doi:10.2307/3800702. JSTOR 3800702. 
  32. ^ a b Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. 1951. American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company
  33. ^ a b de Vos, Antoon. 1964. Food utilization of snowshoe hares on Mantioulin Island, Ontario. Journal of Forestry. 62: 238–244
  34. ^ Dodds, Donald G (1960). "Food competition and range relationships of moose and snowshoe hare in Newfoundland". Journal of Wildlife Management 24 (1): 52–60. doi:10.2307/3797356. JSTOR 3797356. 
  35. ^ Herman, Margaret, Willard, E. Earl. 1978. Rocky Mountain wolf and its habitat. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, National Forest System Cooperative Forestry, Forestry Research, Region
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

snowshoe hare
varying hare
snowshoe rabbit

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

The currently accepted scientific name of the snowshoe hare is Lepus
americanus Erxleben [18].

Accepted subspecies include [18,38]:

Lepus americanus americanus Erxleben
L. a. cascadensis Nelson
L. a. columbiensis Rhoads
L. a. dalli Merriam
L. a. klamathensis Merriam
L. a. oregonus Orr
L. a. pallidus Cowan
L. a. phaeonotus J. A. Allen
L. a. pineus Dalquest
L. a. seclusus Baker and Hankins
L. a. struthopus Bangs
L. s. tahoensis Orr
L. a. virginianus Harlan
L. a. washingtonii Baird.
  • 18. Chapman, J. A.; Dixon, K. R.; Lopez-Forment, W.; Wilson, D. E. 1983. The New World jackrabbits and hares (genus Lepus).--1. Taxonomic history and population status. Acta Zoologica Fennica. 174: 49-51. [25011]
  • 38. Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1271 p. [14765]

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: Nagorsen (1985) examined cranial variation patterns throughout the range and found no basis for the recognition of the 15 subspecies included in Hall (1981). Non-native subspecies L. a. struthopus was introduced in western Virginia in the 1960s and 1970s and in West Virginia between 1937 and 1950; the introductions failed, and morphological evidence indicates that the native hare population did not incorporate L. a struthopus genes (Handley 1991).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!