These fluffy white bounders could run laps around a turtle! Learn about the snowshoe hare on this Wildlife Wednesday.
With their big ears and cotton ball tails, there’s no denying that these fluffy little furballs put even Thumper to shame when it comes to the “cute” department! On this Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the snowshoe hare—and how these little hoppers can have a big impact on our environment.
Snowshoe hares make their dens in boreal and mixed deciduous forests throughout Canada (except Nunavut) and the US.
- There’s a reason that they pitted a hare against a turtle—these big-eared bounders can reach speeds of up to 43 km (27 mi) per hour.
- Beyond their impressive speed, adults can also cover 10 ft (3 m) in a single leap. (Take that, Superman!)
- Snowshoe hares get their trademark name from their oversized back feet. The back legs have more fur and their toes and back legs are noticeably larger than those of other rabbits or hares. This gives them built-in snowshoes to help them walk on the snow.
- One more thing that sets these cute carrot-munchers apart from other species is their camouflaging fur coat. During the winter, they sport a thick white coat but, during the summer, it turns a reddish-brown. The result? A great predator evasion system!
What’s up, doc?
Fortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to worry about snowshoe hare populations for a while.
Thanks to their ability to breed like, well, rabbits, these fluffy and fleet-footed creatures are quite common. And, considering they’re an important food source for foxes, lynx, coyotes, minks, owls, and hawks (to name a few), their high numbers and stable populations are quite important for North American forests.
However, that doesn’t mean that researchers aren’t concerned, since the southernmost hare populations have been dwindling over the past few years. Some studies suggest that climate change might be a reason for this; the hares’ winter and summer coats aren’t keeping up with reduced snowfall, causing their camouflage to stop working. Other possible causes for dwindling numbers include habitat loss and fragmentation.
So far, some southern states have banned the hunting of snowshoe hares in order to combat the issue and captive hares have been released into the wild to bolster current populations.