with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Snowshoe Hares

Showshoe hare, photograph by Brent VanFossenYarrow is a favorite herb of hares, and this snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) was happily harvesting a huge patch of the herb next to a viewpoint pull-off along Hurricane Ridge Road in the Olympic National Park of Washington State.

Active year around, their large hind feet make excellent “snowshoes” in the deep snow of the high mountains. Amazingly durable mammals, they do not hoard their food nor hibernate for winter. Their diet during the summer consists of fresh greens and during the winter, as the snow deepens, they consume twigs, buds and shrub bark.

Their unique defense system fascinates us. Most snowshoe hares molt from brown to white, providing camouflage during the different seasons. Not all showshoe hares change color. The hares from the Pacific Northwest do not change color and stay brown all year round.

With their oversized ears, they are very alert to their surroundings and can move incredibly fast, ducking in and out of foliage and trees avoiding the foxes, owls, eagles and bobcats. Hares are an important food source for these predators.

Hare Tips
Look for favorite foods to identify feeding areas. Consider setting up a blind for a few weeks nearby. Get down on the ground and photograph them at their eye level using a long lens. Their environment can be filled with distractions, so work with a moderate to shallow depth of field to blur the background. Look for interesting behavior such as eating and grooming.

Many people believe hares are silent creatures. Snowshoe hares actually have a loud defensive growl and painful scream when injured. Using their wide feet, they can drum it against the ground as part of their mating ritual. They can even dance. Their legendary courtship dance, consisting of somersaults, is accentuated by dramatic foot drumming.

When they are born, in batches of two to four, they can run and consume leafy plants within hours. Rabbits, on the other hand, are cared for in a nest until they are ready for the world. Left on their own rather soon, a mother hare may give birth to 2 – 3 litters during a spring and summer, making up for the loss to predators during the winter. In the wild, a snowshoe hare usually lives about three years.

Snowshoe hares usually keep close to home, ranging across a 10 acre area, though some have been known to travel a mile or more in search of a viable habitat. Many people mistake a jackrabbit for a snowshoe hare. Snowshoe hares are usually found in forests and often near swamps, while jackrabbits prefer open grassy plains.

Hare in winter grasses, Denver, Colorado, photo by Brent VanFossenScientists have discovered evidence of rabbits and hares going back more than 40 million years. They are frequently featured in children’s stories and fairy tales. Alice chased a white rabbit down a hole into Wonderland. A race was staged between a tortoise and a hare. Beatrix Potter’s curious collection of rabbits, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter continue to cheer children today, one hundred years later. A modern day rabbit, named Roger, caused all kinds of trauma in a recent Hollywood movie. And Bugs Bunny continues to traumatize Elmer Fudd on television. We just love to romanticize these fuzzy and cute creatures.

2 Comments

  • chelsea harvy
    Posted April 10, 2005 at 14:53 | Permalink

    i thought your pics were nice but com on get some beter shots 2 pictures is not enogh for this websit to catch my eye
    chelsea

  • Posted April 11, 2005 at 10:37 | Permalink

    Then you obviously haven’t looked very far within this website. We have over 3000 photos, last time I checked, but then I just uploaded a hundred in the past week, so I’m sure the number is much higher.

    This particular article is part of our educational series called “Natural Wonder”, which highlights wildlife, nature subjects, and nature locations to help the photographer learn more about the subject(s) they are photographing. Learning comes from more than just pictures, though pictures are nice.

    Thanks for visiting and I hope you spent a little more time than on just this page. There are hundreds more, stuffed with information and photographs.

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