Arctic Hare

Arctic Hare

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Lepus arcticus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
3-8 yrs
TOP SPEED
64 km/h
WEIGHT
2.5-5.5 kg
LENGTH
43-70 cm

Arctic hare is a species of hare, living in cold Arctic regions. These hares look like rabbits but have shorter ears, are taller when standing, and, unlike rabbits, can thrive in extreme cold. Their front and hind legs are large and fluffy. The color of the coat depends on the season of the year, while the fur on the underbelly and chest always remains gray. Thus, in winters the fur grows long. It becomes white, thicker, softer by feeling with black bunches on the edges of their ears. Molting coincides with the summer season, during which the fur becomes brownish-grey to gray-blue. Face, feet, ears, shoulders, legs, and, finally, back: molt one by one. Males usually start molting after females.

No

Nocturnal

He

Herbivore

Fo

Folivore

Te

Terrestrial

Ju

Jumping

Bu

Burrowing

Zo

Zoochory

Vi

Viviparous

Pr

Precocial

Po

Polygyny

So

Solitary

No

Not a migrant

A

starts with

Ca

Camouflaged Animals
(collection)

Ca

Canada Province Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Arctic hares’ area of distribution covers a vast territory, stretching from Greenland and the northernmost regions of Canada to Newfoundland and Labrador. They are well adapted to conditions found in the tundras, plateaus, and treeless coasts of this region, including cold weather and frozen precipitation.

Arctic Hare habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Arctic hares are nocturnal animals that prefer leading solitary lifestyles. However, to survive under extreme, Arctic weather conditions, hares congregate in groups. Here they get warm with each other’s bodies. Also, they feed in groups of 10-60 individuals in each one, though in far north regions they gather in large groups of up to 300 individuals. Feeling danger, a hare rises on its hind legs while keeping its front legs lifted and close to the chest. They stand still in this position, listening carefully to any rustling around. They can also hop away in this position. These hares are excellent swimmers and, as all hares, elusive runners. They dig through snow to get food.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Arctic hares are herbivores (folivores), meaning that they mainly feed on plants. However, they enjoy eating willows and flowers as well. Due to the lack of suitable food in northernmost regions, these animals dig through the snowpack to get lichens, plants, and mosses. Their diet includes also rare leaves, buds, and roots of plants.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-May
PREGNANCY DURATION
50 days
BABY CARRYING
2-8 leverets
INDEPENDENT AGE
8-9 weeks
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
leveret

Arctic hares are polygynous, meaning that a male mates more than one female during each breeding season. The mating period takes place in spring, usually from April to May, while the gestation period takes about 50 days. As a result, in May-June, a female gives birth to 2-8 youngsters. Each mating pair has its defined territory. Young hares are born fully furred and with eyes open. They are precocial and are able to fend for themselves soon after birth. Weaning usually occurs at the age of 8-9 weeks and the leverets stay within the mother's home range until they can survive on their own. They are almost full size by late July (some weeks after birth) and breed for the first time after a year of age.

Population

Population threats

Major threats for Arctic hare are habitat loss in areas, overlapping with human settlements, and excessive hunting. As for the latter, they attract hunters for their pelts as well as meat. The majority of the hunters are indigenous people of the region. Moreover, in the case of global warming threats are likely to increase.

Population number

The population number of Arctic hare is not officially estimated. However, this widespread species is evidently not endangered, assuming that IUCN has classified the Arctic Hare in the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.

Ecological niche

Arctic hares are important dispersers of seeds and an important food source for local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • In spite of frequently being called Arctic rabbit, this animal is a species of hare, not a rabbit. Differences are physiological, behavioral, and external. Thus, its ears are shorter and tidier than rabbits’; when it stands on its hind legs, it’s taller than a rabbit; and finally, it’s used to extremely low temperatures of the Polar Region.
  • Hares’ eyelashes are black, thus protecting its eyes from bright light.
  • Thanks to its eyes structure, a hare is able to see 360 degrees around, without moving its head.
  • Comparably small ears of hares are a fine example of adapting to the environment, explained by the fact, that smaller ears waste less heat.
  • Arctic hares are able to move at a speed of up to 40 miles/hour, the length of their jump reaching 6.8 feet.

References

1. Arctic Hare Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_hare
2. Arctic Hare on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41274/0

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