Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus)

Description
snowshoe hare

Size

  • Adults weigh about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds).

Appearance

  • The snowshoe hare has very broad hind feet, and larger ears than the cottontail.
  • In summer, its fur is grizzled reddish or greyish brown on the upperparts, and white on the under-parts.
  • In winter, its coat turns completely white, except for black on the tips of the ears.
  • The large hind feet are covered with thick and stiff hairs during the winter. These feet act like snowshoes (hence the name), allowing the animal to "float" on top of the snow, instead of sinking in it.
  • The tracks left in the snow are distinctive.
Distribution
  • The snowshoe hare is the most widely distributed lagomorph in Canada, occupying all forested regions from tree-line in the Arctic to the treed coulees and river bottoms of the prairies.
Natural History

Food

  • In summer, snowshoe hares eat a variety of grasses and forbs.
  • In winter, they eat the buds, bark, and branches of shrubs and small trees.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Breeding season starts in March and may continue into summer.
  • Litters of about four young are born to each doe (female) about a month after mating.
  • Young are precocial, being born with long hair, and eyes open. They are able to leave the doe's simple above-ground nest a few days after birth.
  • Does (adult females) may breed several times during the year, some having as many as four litters. This fecundity is a major factor in the large population changes that occur over the years.
Conservation and Management

Status

The snowshoe hare is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

Hunting

Snowshoe hares may be hunted, but not trapped, without a licence throughout the province, at all times of the year. See details in the Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:

 

Page Information

Updated: May 13, 2010