The Snowshoe Hare is the common name for a hare that lives
in the boreal forests of the northern parts of North America
and elsewhere only at high altitudes, such as the heights of
the North American mountain ranges. Snowshoe Hares can be
found living in open meadows, forests, tundra, taiga, and
along riversides and swamps.
Scientifically they are in the order Lagomorpha, family
Leporidae, genus Lepus. The name
Snowshoe Hare comes from their extra-large feet (four to six
inches or eleven to fifteen centimeters). The bottoms of
their feet are insulated with hair which also improves
traction, and their toes are wide-spread; adapted to work
like snowshoes and hold the hare up on top of the deep snow
that is common in their habitat.
The Snowshoe Hare is also called the Varying Hare because
its coat changes with the seasons. In summer it is brown
with a white underbelly and is camouflaged against the soil
and plants of the meadows it feeds in. But in the fall its
coat begins to change and within ten weeks, by the first
winter snows, it is snow white except for its nose, eyes and
the black tipped ears that are characteristic of all hares.
In the spring they lose their winter coat and are brown
Snowshoe Hares live alone and don't hibernate. They live
through the long cold winters eating tree bark, twigs, dried
grasses and whatever other plant material they can find,
coming out at night from their nests in shallow grassy
depressions to feed in small groups. In summer they eat
grasses, leaves and ferns, although they have also been seen
stealing meat from traps.
Breeding season begins in March and ends in August, (spring
and summer) and they can have as many as four litters of two
to eight young in a single season. Despite their solitary
nature there can be a large population of Snowshoe Hares in
a given area.
Like the others in the hare family, Snowshoe Hares have very
powerful rear legs that are built for jumping. The Snowshoe
Hare can run up to twenty-seven miles per hour (forty-three
and one half kilometers per hour) and can jump ten feet
(three meters) in one hop. When frightened the young will
freeze to maintain their camouflage, but adults will run,
zigzagging across the ground and even jumping into water to
escape their hunters. The heavier predators are often bogged
down in the deep snow and the hare escapes.
Like rabbits and other hares, males are usually smaller than
the females. They have longer ears than rabbits, although
shorter than most other hares, and their young (called
leverets) are born fully furred and with their eyes open,
ready to run. Snowshoe Hares are fast and good at dodging,
which helps them avoid their predators such as the coyote,
fox, lynx, eagle, owl, and sometimes wolf.
Snowshoe Hares are well known because of their unique color
changes and ability to run on top of deep snow. They are
sometimes hunted by humans, but most often provide a
necessary part of the diet for the larger predators in their