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  • Chris Vera Zelada

Snowshoe Hares Adapted to Cold Living

By Chris Vera Zelada

Image credit Albert Herring, Denali National Park and Preserve.

Special to the Enterprise


Snowshoe hare are part of the leporidae family and have evolved certain traits to help them survive against their predators. Some of these traits include changing their fur color depending on the season. In winter the snowshoe hare will change its fur color to white helping it camouflage with the snow. However, in the spring or summer the snowshoe hare will change its fur color to a brownish color, helping it camouflage with the dirt and rocks. There is only one part of the snowshoe hare that does not change its color and only stays black all year long, the tips of their ears.


Some other traits that are unique to snowshoe hare are their abnormally large hind legs; hence, the reason for their name. Unlike any other hare or rabbit, snowshoe hares also have more fur and larger toes because they have adapted to living in snow. The large toes help them grasp a larger surface area to move around, much like a snowshoe used by people. Their thick fur helps them stay warm as well during the cold temperature of their environments.


Snowshoe hares only breed in the summer and spring, and females have a gestation period of about 1 month. They can give birth to up to 8 newborns, and because their gestation is very short, females can give birth up to 4 times a year. The lifespan of a snowshoe hare averages between 1-2 years, but some have been reported to live up to 5. Snowshoe hares are herbivores and nocturnal meaning that they only feed at night as well as their diets consisting of only plants.


Some fun facts about hares are that they are related to rabbits but there are some differences to look out for. The main differences are between the ears and legs. Hares will have longer ears and larger legs. When facing a predator, a rabbit will typically freeze and camouflage, however a hare will use its big hind legs and toes to run away as soon as possible. At birth rabbits are born with disadvantages as they are born blind and helpless, compared to hares, they are born with fur and ready to run if faced with predators.


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