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Snowshoe Hare

hare tracks

The snowshoe hare is a wide ranging mammal that can be found throughout the dense woodlands of the boreal forest. A true northern resident, the hare has a number of adaptations that make it well suited for the long winter months of the northwest. The hind feet of a hare are very large and broad, and allow the hare to traverse over snow that other animals would sink into. Indeed, the hare’s very name has come about as a consequence of this adaptive feature. In about mid-October, the hare’s fur changes colour from brown to white. This change comes about regardless of the amount of snow that is on the ground, so this colour change, while an effective camouflage in areas that have experienced snowfall, can be the bane of a hare in an area that has little or no snow. Hare populations fluctuate in a ten year cycle, starting with gradual growth until hares are numerous, and then crashing in the ninth and tenth years of the cycle. Only some of this sharp decline can be attributed to the hare’s natural predator, the lynx. The hare is a bigger enemy to itself than the lynx, becoming so numerous that it eats all the vegetation available until there is nothing left.

Traditional Uses:

Because hares were so numerous, many traditional hunting and trapping peoples living in the northern woodlands would depend on the hare for food and fur. Aboriginal Peoples who depended heavily on the hare, however, would experience periods of starvation and population decline every ten years or so as the populations of hares crashed.

Three hundred or so hare pelts were used in the making of fur blankets. A hare’s winter pelt was highly prized, so hares were hunted extensively in the winter months. The white fur was used as trim on women’s and children’s coats, mukluks, moccasins, and hats.

Hare droppings, particularly those of male hares, were occasionally used as food by bushland people if there was no other food source available.

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