The Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus) is a species of hare found only North America. It gets it name from its very large back feet which give the appearance that the hare is walking with snowshoes. While it certainly isn't wearing snowshoes it feet do however serve that exact same function, preventing the hare from sinking into the snow.
The snowshoe hare like other rabbits depends on camouflage as its first line of defense. And since the habitat of the Snowshoe Hare is snow covered in the winter but not in the summer the hare has developed a fur that changes with the season. It will be mostly white in the winter with a little black on the tips of its ears. During the summer its fur is brown. The hare will go through a gradual change from one color to the next to blend in when the snow coverage is only partial.
Snowshoe Hares feed on grass, ferns and leaves when available. During the winter it will survive primarily on twigs, bark and buds. They are most active at night and do not hibernate.
The Snowshoe Hare may have up to 4 litters in a year which average 2 to 4 young. Males compete for females and females may breed with several males.
The Snowshoe Hares population is cyclic and goes through boom and bust cycles. You might think that the hare which is closly related to the eastern cottontail would be a much sought after game animal like many rabbit and hare species but the truth is the hunting of them by people is not all that popular resulting in well under 10% of population being shot during peak years.
Snowshoe Hares are an important food source for lynx, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, weasels, owls and hawks. Manmade causes include car collisions as well as forest and brush fires. Snowshoes Hares will suffer some mortality when there is extreme wet or cold weather.
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