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Brief Summary

    Snowshoe hare: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    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. 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. 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 a 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.

    A major predator of the snowshoe hare is the Canadian lynx. Historical records of animals caught by fur hunters over hundreds of years show the lynx and hare numbers rising and falling in a cycle, which has made the hare known to biology students worldwide as a case study of the relationship between numbers of predators and their prey.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    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.

Comprehensive Description

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    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.
    Snowshoe hare
    provided by wikipedia

    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. 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 a 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.

    A major predator of the snowshoe hare is the Canadian lynx. Historical records of animals caught by fur hunters over hundreds of years show the lynx and hare numbers rising and falling in a cycle, which has made the hare known to biology students worldwide as a case study of the relationship between numbers of predators and their prey.[4][5][6]

    Taxonomy and distribution

    Snowshoe hares occur from Newfoundland to 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.[7] Locations of subspecies are as follows:[8]

    • 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, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee
    • L. a. washingtonii (Baird) – British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon

    Plant communities

    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.[9] In western Oregon, snowshoe hares were present in brush patches of vine maple (Acer circinatum), willows (Salix spp.), rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.), and other shrubs.[10]

    In Utah, snowshoe hares used Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli) in the northern portion of the Gambel oak range.[11] 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).[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.[13] 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).[14] Further details on plant communities used by snowshoe hares in different regions are in Bittner and Rongstad.[7]

    Timing of major life events

    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.[9]

    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).[7][15] Breeding generally begins in late December to January and lasts until July or August .[9][15] 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.[7]

    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.[7][9] 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.[7][9] Weaning occurs at 25 to 28 days except for the last litter of the season, which may nurse for two months or longer.[16]

    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).[7] 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.[7] 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.[7]

    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.[17]

    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.[9] Populations do not peak simultaneously in all areas, although a great deal of synchronicity occurs in northern latitudes.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]

    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.[21]

    Preferred habitat

    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.[22] 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.[23]

    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.[24]

    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.[14] 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.[25] 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.[26]

    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.[27] In older stands (more than 25 years), stem density begins to decline and cover for snowshoe hares decreases.[20] 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.[20] In western Oregon, snowshoe hares were abundant only in early successional stages, including stable brushfields.[10] 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.[28]

    In western Washington, snowshoe hares routinely used steep slopes where cover was adequate; most studies, however, suggest they tend to prefer gentle slopes.[27] 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.[29] Their activity usually shifts from coniferous understories in winter to hardwood understories in summer.[30]

    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.[18] 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 the Island of Montreal in 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.[31] In Oregon the average snowshoe hare home range was 14.6 acres (5.9 ha).[32]

    Cover requirements

    Snowshoe hares require dense, brushy, usually coniferous cover; thermal and escape cover are especially important for young hares.[15] 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.[22] 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.[24]

    Food habits

    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.[7][9] Snowshoe hares typically feed at night and follow well-worn forest paths to feed on various plants and trees.[33]

    Winter

    Snowshoe hares prefer branches, twigs, and small stems up to 0.25 inch (6.3 mm) diameter; larger stems are sometimes used in winter.[15] 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.[19] 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.[34] 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.[9] 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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37] Further details on regional food preferences are summarized in Snowshoe hare and allies:[7]

    Spring, summer and autumn

    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.[34] 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.[9] In Minnesota, aspens, willows, grasses, birches, alders, sumacs, and strawberries are consumed when green.[35] In Ontario, summer diets consist of clovers, grasses, and forbs.[36]

    Predators

    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.[7][9][15] Other predators include black bears (Ursus americanus).[7] In Glacier National Park snowshoe hares are a prey item of Rocky Mountain wolves (Canis lupus irremotus).[38]

    Vulnerability to climate change

    The habitat for some snowshoe hares has changed dramatically, leaving some habitats without snow.[39] Some hares have adapted and stay brown all winter. Others, however, continue to turn white in winter. These hares are at an increased risk of being hunted and killed because they are no longer camouflaged.[40] Many people in the scientific community believe that snowshoe hare populations are at risk of crashing unless interbreeding speeds up the process of evolution to year-round brown. Other species who rely on the hare as part of their diet are also at risk.[41][42]

    References

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

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    25. ^ Monthey, Roger W. (1986). "Responses of snowshoe hares, Lepus americanus, to timber harvesting in northern Maine". Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100 (4): 568–570.
    26. ^ 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.
    27. ^ 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
    28. ^ 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.
    29. ^ 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.
    30. ^ O'Donoghue, Mark (1983). "Seasonal habitat selection by snowshoe hare in eastern Maine". Transactions, Northeast Section of the Wildlife Society. 40: 100–107.
    31. ^ Adams, Lowell (1959). "An analysis of a population of snowshoe hares in northwestern Montana". Ecological Monographs. 29 (2): 148–153. doi:10.2307/1942201. JSTOR 1942201.
    32. ^ 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.
    33. ^ Snowshoe Hares, Snowshoe Hare Pictures, Snowshoe Hare Facts – National Geographic. Animals.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-11.
    34. ^ 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.
    35. ^ a b Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. (1951). American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company
    36. ^ a b de Vos, Antoon (1964). "Food utilization of snowshoe hares on Mantioulin Island, Ontario". Journal of Forestry. 62: 238–244.
    37. ^ 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.
    38. ^ 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
    39. ^ "Evolutionary clock ticks for snowshoe hares facing climate change". Phys.org. North Carolina State University. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
    40. ^ DIEP, FRANCIE. "CLIMATE CHANGE IS DEADLY FOR SNOWSHOE HARES". PSmag.com. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
    41. ^ "Hurry up and evolve". AnimalRightsChannel.com. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
    42. ^ "Lynx-Snowshoe Hare Cycle". Environment and Natural Resources. Retrieved 15 February 2018.

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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
    Occurrence in North America
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals

    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

    Regional Distribution in the Western United States
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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
    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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 )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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.

Habitat

    Associated Plant Communities
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: forest, 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].
    Cover Requirements
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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].
    Habitat: Cover Types
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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
    Habitat: Ecosystem
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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
    Habitat: Plant Associations
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info on this topic.

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

    More info for the terms: bog, forest

       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
    Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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):

    More info for the terms: forb, woodland

       203  Riparian woodland
       409  Tall forb
       411  Aspen woodland
       421  Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose
    Preferred Habitat
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: cover, density, forest, hardwood, presence, softwood, 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].
    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

Trophic Strategy

    Food Habits
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: bog, cover, ferns, 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].
    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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 )

Associations

    Predators
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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].
    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snowshoe hares are important prey animals in their ecosystem.

    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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:

    • coyotes (Canis latrans)
    • wolves (Canis lupus)
    • lynx (Lynx canadensis)
    • bobcats (Lynx rufus)
    • mink (Neovison vison)
    • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
    • grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

    Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

General Ecology

    Habitat-related Fire Effects
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: cover, density, fire suppression, forbs, forest, 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].
    Timing of Major Life History Events
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: crepuscular, density, 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].

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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 ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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); sexual ; 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)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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.
    U.S. Federal Legal Status
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    None [84]
    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

Management

    Management Considerations
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the terms: cover, density, forest, natural, phase, selection, shrubs, 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].
    Use of Fire in Population Management
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    More info for the term: fire regime

    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].

    FIRE REGIMES :
    Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
    species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
    "Find FIRE REGIMES".

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

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

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    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

Taxonomy

    Common Names
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    snowshoe hare
    varying hare
    snowshoe rabbit
    Taxonomy
    provided by Fire Effects Information System Animals
    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.

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snowshoe hares have been widely studied. One of the more interesting things known about hares are the dramatic population cycles that they undergo. Population densities can vary from 1 to 10,000 hares per square mile. The amplitude of the population fluctuations varies across the geographic range. It is greatest in northwestern Canada, and least in the rocky Mountain region of the United States, perhaps because there is more biological diversity in more southerly regions. The lack of diversity in the Northwestern portion of the hare's range means that there are fewer links in the food chain, and therefore fewer species to buffer either dramatic population increases or decreases. Disease may play a part in population fluctuation. Pneumonococcus, ringworm, and salmonella have all been associated with population crashes.

    Snowshoe hares are also famous for their seasonal molts. In the summer, the coat of the hare is reddish brown or gray, but during the winter, the coat is snowy white. The molt usually takes about 72 days to reach completion, and it seems to be regulated by daylength. Interestingly, there seem to be two entirely different sets of hair follicles, which give rise to white and brown hairs, respectively.