Spring’s longer days bring about a change in the color of hare fur. A hare gradually loses its winter white guard hairs as daylight hours increase. While a white hare may be well camouflaged in a snow covered landscape, if it still has that white fur after all the snow has melted, it becomes an easy target for predators.
This year, an earlier spring has been enjoyed across Canada. The ground is completely bare of snow earlier than usual in the season.
Recently, I’ve noticed two hares in the yard that seem to be at different stages of shedding their winter coats. One is much whiter than the other. The whiter hare is barely camouflaged while sitting on light colored grass. The browner hare seems to blend in well either on the grass or in the woods among browned leaves.
Snowshoe hares play a vital role in the ecosystem of the Northern Boreal forest by providing food for such carnivores as coyotes, foxes, bobcats, lynx, weasels, fishers and eagles. There’s concern in the scientific community that fewer days of snow cover due to global warming may pose a negative impact on the hare population.
Both hares have been grazing regularly in my yard together for the past couple of weeks. I’ve often found nests of baby hares in the wild rosebushes in past years. Having survived the winter, hopefully these hares will also survive long enough to reproduce a litter of kittens later this spring.
For more information on the effects of climate change on snowshoe hares, see:
White Snowshoe Hares Can’t Hide on Brown Earth at Science Daily