Mountain Hare

Mountain Hare

Blue hare, Tundra hare, Variable hare, White hare, Snow hare, Alpine hare, Irish hare

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Lepus timidus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
12 yrs
WEIGHT
2-5 kg
LENGTH
45-65 cm

The Mountain hare is a large species of hair that is largely adapted to polar and mountainous habitats. In summer, for all populations of mountain hares, the coat is various shades of brown. In preparation for winter, most populations molt into a white (or largely white) pelage but their tail remains completely white all year round. In Ireland, the Irish mountain hare stays brown all year and individuals rarely develop a white coat. They may also have a "golden" variation, particularly those found on Rathlin Island.

Distribution

Mountain hares are distributed from Fennoscandia to eastern Siberia; in addition, there are isolated mountain populations in the Alps, Scotland, the Baltics, northeastern Poland, and Hokkaidō. They live in the tundra, taiga, forests in mountain areas, and in some regions in the woodlands of the open steppe. Populations in Ireland live on lowland pastures, coastal grasslands, moors, and salt marshes, not just in the mountains.

Mountain Hare habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Mountain hares are nocturnal animals. During the day they rest in depressions, called forms that are dug in the snow or ground and at night they come out to feed. During the breeding season, they typically use abandoned burrows or dig their own to raise their young. Mountain hares are social and during cold snowy days, they often gather in groups to shelter or to feed together. They are always cautious and when they sense danger or disturbed they will flee, often in a zigzag pattern.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Mountain hares are herbivores (graminivores, folivores). They feed on grasses, lichen, leaves, twigs, bark, and other plants according to season and habitat.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
January-September
PREGNANCY DURATION
50-54 days
BABY CARRYING
1-4 leverets
INDEPENDENT AGE
4 weeks
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
leveret

Mountain hares breed from January to September and females may produce between 1 and 3 litters per year consisting of 1-4 leverets. Gestation usually takes 50-54 days. The young are born fully furred and with their eyes open. They are nursed by the mother only in the evening and are weaned at the age of 4 weeks.

Population

Population threats

Mountain hares are not considered endangered at present, however, populations may decline locally due to changes in climate, starvation, habitat loss, hunting, and predation.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Mountain hare is common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • In the Faroe Islands, Mountain hares turn grey in the winter instead of white.
  • The Arctic hare was once considered a subspecies of the Mountain hare, but it is now regarded as a separate species.
  • Mountain hares rarely drink and it is suggested that they might eat snow to fulfill their liquid requirements.
  • During winter the hindfeet of Mountain hares become heavily furred; they act like snow-shoes and don't allow animals to sink into deep snow.
  • Before eating their food Mountain hares always remove snow from the surfaces with their paws.
  • In order for newborn Mountain hares to survive their mother needs to lick them constantly; this helps their blood circulation.

References

1. Mountain Hare on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_hare
2. Mountain Hare on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/11791/45177198

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