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Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

Lepus americanus

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Mammal

Description

Snowshoe hares have an interesting adaptation that helps protect them against predators. Depending on the season, their fur can be a different color. During the winter, snowshoe hares are white, which helps them blend in with the snow. When the seasons change to spring and summer, snowshoe hares turn a reddish-brown. This color helps them camouflage with dirt and rocks.

Not every part of the snowshoe hare changes color throughout the year. An important identification trick is to look at a snowshoe hare's ears. The tips of the ears are always black no matter the season.

The hind legs of a snowshoe hare are noticeably larger, and have more fur and larger toes than those of other rabbits or hares. These adaptations provide additional surface area and support for walking on snow. The hind legs are what give the hare its common name.

Range

Snowshoe hares live in the coniferous and boreal forests of the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachian Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, New England, Alaska, Minnesota, Michigan, and Montana. Within the United States, most of these coniferous forests are found on mountaintops, such as the Rockies, or near the Canadian border.

Diet

Snowshoe hares can be seen foraging among the brush. They eat mostly plants, enjoying grasses, flowers, and new growth from trees.

Behavior

Snowshoe hares are nocturnal, so they're more likely to be seen at dawn and dusk. These animals have acute hearing and are able to detect predators.

Life History

Snowshoe hares breed in spring and summer. Females have a gestation period of roughly one month, and can give birth to up to eight young. A female hare can birth up to four litters a year.

The hares reach maturity after one year. Many hares do not live this long. But some hares can live as long as five years in the wild.

Conservation

Snowshoe hares are common throughout their range. Because they are able to breed so rapidly, their populations are able to grow quickly.

Fun Fact

Hares and rabbits are related, but there are some key differences. Hares tend to be larger than rabbits and have longer legs and bigger ears. When threatened, rabbits typically freeze and rely on camouflage, as compared to hares, who use their big feet to flee at the first sign of danger. Rabbits are born blind and helpless, while hares are born fully furred and ready to run.

Sources

Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

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