This year seems to be the year for snowshoe hares – they’re all over Denali National Park. What was interesting is that I made 2 relatively short trips to Denali National Park this year, one in late August and one in mid-September, and both trips I saw numerous snowshoe hares, but they weren’t at all in the same areas. In August I saw an awful lot of hares in the first 15 miles of the road into the park, particularly near Savage River. In September, we didn’t see any bunnies there, despite my assurances to my parents that would – well, we did see one, he was being carried across a gravel bar by a lynx, but other than that one, we didn’t see any. We did, however, see a ton of snowshoe hares in and around the Teklanika campground. A friend of mine was in there a week or so later and saw a lynx and her 3 kittens in the area, so I’m sure the snowshoe hare population won’t be high for too long. 🙂
Snoeshoe hares are very cool. They have these H-U-G-E feet, as you can tell from this photo. These large feet help them cross deep snow, the greater surface area helping to keep them from sinking and floundering in the snow, much like snowshoes do for people – not something you want to have happen when almost every animal you’re likely to run into is a possible predator. Snowshoe hares are hunted by lynx, their primary predator, but also wolves, foxes, coyotes, wolverine, raptors such as owls, hawks and eagles. It’s a tough gig being a snowshoe hare.
Also, the coat of the hare will turn white in the winter, only the tips of their ears staying dark – I’m not sure why that is so. Because of this change in coat, they’re also known as the varying hare. The white coat helps provide some camouflage in the winter, melting their shape into the snowy backgrounds of the forest. It usually takes around 10 weeks for the coat to change color. Hopefully this winter I’ll get some nice images of snowshoe hares in their winter coats, until then, photos like this one will have to do.
PS: You can see more photos from Denali here.