Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arctic Hare

This is my one and only look at (and chance to photograph) an Arctic Hare (Lepus arcticus).
The arctic hare is distributed over the tundra regions of Greenland and the northernmost parts of Canada. Towards the south of its range, the arctic hare changes its coat colour, moulting and growing new fur, from brown or grey in the summer to white in the winter, like some other arctic animals including ermine and ptarmigan, enabling it to remain camouflaged as the background changes.However, the arctic hares in the far north of Canada, where summer is very short, remain white all year round.
The arctic hare survives with a thick coat of fur and usually digs holes under the ground or snow to keep warm and sleep. Arctic hares look like rabbits but have shorter ears and can stand up taller, and can live/maintain themselves in cold places unlike rabbits. They can travel together with many other hares, sometimes huddling with dozens or more, but are usually found alone, taking in some cases more than one partner. The arctic hare can run up to 40 miles (64 km) per hour. Its predators include Arctic wolf, Arctic fox, and Ermine.
The arctic hare eats mainly woody plants but also dine on buds, berries, leaves and grasses. In the early summer they eat purple saxifrage. It has a keen sense of smell and may dig for willow twigs under the snow. When eating plants, the arctic hare likes to stand where there is less snow to easily locate twigs or plants that fall off or lie on the ground for it to chew on/feed on. This hare can eat meat.
There now, that last statement...."can eat meat".  I was the northern-newbie on this trip.  Everyone went on and on about how big, I mean BIG, these animals were.  I was looking for an absolute monster, yes, a gnashing, drooling meat-eating bunny. 

And while the arctic hare Is one of the largest living lagomorphs, this particular one was about the size of a white-tailed jackrabbit down here in Southern Saskatchewan.  See my post from last year sometime http://stilllifewithbirder.blogspot.ca/2011/05/white-tailed-jackrabbit.html 

Wikipedia says:  On average, this species measures from 43 to 70 cm (17 to 28 in) long, not counting a tail length of 4.5–10 cm (1.8–3.9 in). The body mass of this species is typically between 2.5–5.5 kg (6–12 lb), though large specimens can weigh up to 7 kg (15 lb)

Kaufman describes it as length 24", weight 10 lbs.   Apparently, there is quite some variation in size.
Female hares can have up to eight baby hares called leverets. The leverets stay within the mother's home range until they are old enough to survive on their own
All info taken directly from Wikipedia


Kaufman Field Guide to Mammals of North America 


  1. What a beauty! Looks like you had some really good luck up there!

    1. It was a great trip, Brenda. Can't wait to return. While we saw so much in just a few days, there is so much we didn't. I dearly want to get out on the bay in a boat to really see the belugas.