Big Sky Wildlife Spotlight: Snowshoe Hares
Snowshoe hares live throughout the northern United States and Canada. Keep your eye peeled for these furry four-legged creatures when you’re in Big Sky Country. It’s likely that you’ll spot one wandering amongst the forested terrain in Big Sky or scurrying away from predators in Yellowstone National Park's Norris Geyser Basin. It's even more common to see a snowshoe hare's lingering tracks in the snow while you ride the chairlift at Big Sky Resort or cross country ski in the Gallatin National Forest.
There is certainly an abundance of snowshoe hares in Montana and other areas. We hope you spot one of these bouncing creatures while you're in Big Sky.
Let's take a look at some interesting facts about snowshoe hares:
- The Snowshoe Hare's scientific name is lepus americanus.
- They live throughout northern North America and are non-migratory.
- Snowshoe hares live primarily in sheltered forested regions.
- They spend their lives above ground.
Snowshoe Hare Profile | Pixabay
- An adult snowshoe hare is 14 to 20 inches long and weights 3 to 4 pounds.
- They are active year round and are mostly out at night.
- Snowshoe hares change color due to an evolutionary adaptation that allows them to blend in with their surroundings. They change from grey/brown to white in the fall and vice versa in the spring. The changes are related to the number of daylight hours. The transition takes about 70 to 90 days.
- Their big ears are always fringed with black fur regardless of the season.
- Big hind feet act like snowshoes and allow them to quickly move across snow.
- Their tracks are easily recognizable.
- Their feet are covered in fur to protect them from the cold winter temperatures.
- Snowshoe hares can run upwards of 20 MPH.
- To avoid confrontation they blend in with their surroundings and remain completely still.
- Their primary food sources are shrubs, twigs, leaves, and even conifer needles.
- Snowshoe hares are mainly herbivores, but have been known to eat dead animals.
- They also sometimes eat feces and sand.
- Predators include lynx, coyotes, fox, martens, weasels, owls, hawks, eagles, and other carnivores.
- Compared to rabbits, snowshoe hares are larger, taller, and have longer ears. Also, rabbits do not change colors.
- Snowshoe hares breed from late February to August.
- Males compete for females by drumming the ground with their hind feet, leaping into the air, and occasionally even battling (NPS.gov).
- Females have 2 to 3 litters per year and can have up to 8 young per litter.
- Baby snowshoe hares are called leverets.
Snowshoe Hare | Pixabay
- Leverets can survive on their own within 30 days after birth.
- The biggest threat to snowshoe hares is climate change.
- Populations ebb and flow roughly ever decade due to disease. This has an effect on its predators too.
It’s always fun to spot a snowshoe hare in its natural environment. When you see one, we hope you’ll recall some of these interesting facts about snowshoe hares. Be sure to share this fun trivia with your friends, family, or chairlift partners.
If you capture a cool wildlife photo of a snowshoe hare be sure to share it on social media with #visitbigsky.
Learn more interesting facts about snowshoe hares from these sources: