10 Incredible Snowshoe Hare Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: August 3, 2022
© Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com
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hare vs rabbit
Snowshoe hares turn from a white color to brown in the summer.

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The Boreal and Coniferous woods of North America are home to the Snowshoe Hare (Lepus Americanus), a hare that lives in the forest. Its range reaches the upper altitudes of the Rocky, Appalachian, and Cascade Mountain ranges in the south, as well as the coastlines of the Arctic Ocean.

The genus Lepus includes animals like hares and jackrabbits. They belong to the same family as rabbits and hares, the Leporidae. Most species of rabbits and hares are smaller than snowshoe hares. Snowshoe hares differ from other hares by having longer rear legs, smaller ears, and big, furry feet. Continue reading below for 10 Amazing Snowshoe Hare Facts.

1. Their Hind Feet Function as Snowshoes (Hence the Name)

All four feet are huge in relation to body size, a snowshoe-like adaptation that allows the hare to move across snow. The hare’s hind feet are thickly furred to protect it from frigid temperatures. When closely examined, the snowshoe hare’s rear paws don’t even appear to be genuine. Even between their toe bones, they have some webbing.

2. Their Fur Changes Colors Depending on Seasons

Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe Hares clean fleas and lice out of their fur by rolling in the dust.

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In the spring and summer, the snowshoe hare’s fur is reddish brown, while in the winter it is white. Additionally, it always has a black tail and ear tips and a gray underside. Due to their snow-white fur, they are exceedingly difficult to notice in the winter if they stay still. They may benefit from this as a form of camouflage if surrounding predators are present.

3. Snowshoe Hares are Mostly Active in the Evening

Snowshoe hares are fascinating in a variety of ways, and like most creatures, they have different daily routines. However, because they are active in low light, they are most frequently spotted outside at dawn, twilight, and at night. They are active even on overcast days. Hares spend a lot of time grooming and napping intermittently during the day.

4. Snowshoe Hares are Incredible Agile

Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe hares are experts at changing direction while running at top speed.

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Snowshoe hares are swift and nimble, with a top speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour. To avoid predators, they can also change direction swiftly and jump up to 10 meters. The large rear legs of snowshoe hares allow them to move on top of the snow without sinking in.

5. Snowshoe Hares Do Not Hibernate

The boreal, or northern forest is home to snowshoe hares. As a key prey species for a wide range of predators, hare abundance affects many predators’ population size and reproductive success. The boreal forests of North America are home to snowshoe hares, which are active all year long.

6. They are Mostly Solitary

Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe Hares communicate with each other by thumping their back feet on the ground.

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Although snowshoe hares normally live alone, they frequently coexist in close quarters and have overlapping home areas. The young start eating grass at ten days old and are totally weaned from their mother’s milk at one month. They have grown to their full adult size by the time they are six months old and will breed the following spring. After that, they usually go their separate ways until breeding season.

7. Their Diet Changes When the Seasons Do

Their ability to adjust to whatever the season is shows how sophisticated their diet is. The snowshoe hare consumes grass, ferns, and leaves in the summer; in the winter, it consumes twigs, tree bark, and flower and plant buds. Like the Arctic hare, it has also been observed occasionally devouring dead animals.

8. Snowshoe Hares Breed Often

Snowshoe Hare
The tips of a snowshoe hare’s ears are black no matter the season.

©Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

The first mating of the year takes place in the spring (March and April), and about 35 days after mating, a litter of typically two to four young (leverets) is born. Two to three litters of young are born to hares each year, and the females mate again soon after the birth of each litter. The average number of litters produced by snowshoe hares each year is 4, with 3 to 8 young.

9. Snowshoe Hares Have Great Hearing

Snowshoe hares have keen hearing and can recognize predators despite having smaller ears than most hare species. When they suspect something may be moving, they frequently lift their heads and perk their ears.

10. They are Amazing Swimmers

Snowshoe Hare
Snowshoe hares are surprisingly great swimmers.

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Although they try to stay away from the water, snowshoe hares are excellent swimmers. Wildlife survival can be challenging. Snowshoe hares occasionally must swim over small lakes and rivers when they are defending themselves, that is when they are fleeing from a predator. They have been observed going into the water to escape becoming a meal.


The Featured Image

Snowshoe Hare
The tips of a snowshoe hare’s ears are black no matter the season.
© Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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