Quick FactSnowshoe hares get the cue to change their fur coat color from the pineal gland. It is located in the brain and is able to sense changes in the daylight lengths.
Snowshoe hares get their curious name from the large size of their hind feet, which protect them from sinking into the snow, when they hop and walk. In addition to this, as a natural camouflage, their fur turns white during winters, and brown during summer. They leave very interesting tracks in the snow, which are made by their large hind feet and tail.
The length of the snowshoe hare ranges from 16'' to 20'' including a tail of about 1.5'' to 2''. The large hind feet are known to measure between 4.6'' to 5.7'' in length, while the ears, that are shorter than most hares are between 2.4'' to 2.7'' long from notch to tip. The female snowshoe hare is larger than the male, and weighs between 2 to 4 lbs. Its soft furry coat is brown in summers. At this time, it has a blackish mid dorsal line, belly and the chin being white or grayish. With the onset of winter, their coat turns snow white, with the exception of black eyelids and ear tips. Their large feet are very furry, especially the soles, to protect them from freezing temperatures. When the snow begins to melt in spring, their coat begins to turn brown, and the complete change takes place over a period of ten weeks.
The height of trees, as a base cover, on an average, should be around 8-15 feet. On the other hand, it is best if the trees have a height around 15-46 feet as a travel cover. The habitat of a snowshoe hare comprises fence rows, swamps, cedar bogs, riverside thickets and coniferous lowlands. In the world, they can be found throughout Canada and in northernmost region of the United States, the lower limits being along the Sierras, Rockies, and Appalachian mountain ranges.
Food habits of snowshoe hare tend to vary according to weather conditions. To a large extent they forage on green grasses, bluegrass, forbs, brome, asters, vetches, jewelweed, pussy-toes, wild strawberry, dandelions, daisies, clovers and horsetails. They can be spotted eating new growth of trembling birches, aspen and willows. Through the sparse winter months, they consume buds, twigs, bark, and evergreens. If need be, they have been known to feed on the dead remains of conspecifics.
The known predators of the snowshoe hare are wolves, bobcats, lynx, mink, gray foxes and red foxes. In order to evade such a long list of predators, they have perfected a number of 'escape' techniques. One of them is to "freeze" in their tracks when a threat is perceived. Given their fantastic summer and winter camouflage, this method is quite effective. Apart from this while fleeing they can confuse a pursuing predator by skillful changes in direction and vertical leaps.
Another interesting fact about snowshoe hares is that in order to escape from predators, they often take an occasional dip or swim, thanks to the fact that they are extremely talented swimmers.
While it is common for many snowshoe hares to be residing in a given area, they are typically solitary creatures. Much of the day is dedicated to grooming and fitful naps. They are prolific breeders, having two to three litters each year, comprising one to eight young per litter. In the wild, up to 85% of snowshoe hares do not live longer than one year.