A snowshoe hare shares a rare trait with only a few other animals it dramatically changes color during different seasons.
Like the ermine, which is a member of the weasel family, and ptarmigan in the grouse family, snowshoe hares change from brown to snow-white during winter.
Snowshoes are found throughout Idaho, mostly in the north, central and eastern parts of the state. Its one of their adaptations to the terrain they inhabit.
They are taller than rabbits and sport large, furry feet that help them move with ease over snow-covered ground in the winter.
Their renowned transformation usually takes up to 10 weeks to complete.
The change in coloration is a defense against predators. It makes it extremely difficult to see the hares white fur against a snowy backdrop.
Of course, it stands to reason the same is true as it alters physical appearance to match the vegetation during spring, changing back to a brownish hue to blend seamlessly with surrounding foliage.
As seasons extend or shorten, length of sunlit hours sets off an internal change in many animals to shed, molt, or otherwise transform their appearance. Snowshoe hares are no different.
Snowshoe hares are generally nocturnal feeders, enjoying small-tree leaves, bushes, shrubs, plants and grasses.
Overall, they are remarkably fast for their size, which bodes well for them because their predators are equally as nimble.
These little fellows can run up to 27 miles per hour and jump nearly 10 feet in one leap. Their ability to change direction in a moment is one of their best defenses, along with remarkably acute hearing.
Coyotes, lynxes, bobcats and foxes are the primary dangers for the little hares. Raptors also will snatch up an unsuspecting youngster.
As with any rabbit or hare, they are prolific breeders and have up to three litters per year containing two to eight young each time.
The young are known as leverets, and they are able to survive on their own from shortly after their first month.
An interesting tidbit is hares are good swimmers.
Hares are not very vocal. They communicate by thumping a back foot, much like beating a drum.
They are also creatures of habit in many ways as they will wear down a path in the forest floor over time and use it as a path they travel.
Mark Krepps is a freelance writer, author and blogger at outdoorsforkids. blogspot.com. He is a father of three boys and has lived in Idaho for 16 years.
8 WORDIES OR LINKTOLYLYLYL
8First reported at IdahoStatesman.com