What's the difference
between rabbits and hares? Well let's not split hares here but
the main difference is hind legs. Hares have longer hind legs
and are built for speed. They rarely use burrows or caves. Rabbits
have shorter hind legs, are not as fast and therefore do use
the cover of burrows and caves.
We will mostly discuss the snowshoe
hare here. It is a symbol of Canada and predominant in the Rocky
Mountains. The Snowshoe Hare has the unfortunate honor of being the
main food source for a great many predators in Alberta. Their
primary defence is their lightning fast speed, sharp wits and
ability to "turn on a hare"! The breed survives by
mass and rapid propogation (females can have 3 litters of leverets
in a year), and the ability to survive on meager rations of
something that grows in abundance, grasses.
Similar species include the famous Jackrabbit (lepus townsendii) which predominates
on the prairies. The name came from an abbreviation of jack-ass
rabbit, so named because of its large donkey ears. Another near
cousin (rabbits breed so fast they have millions of cousins) is
the Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii). Even the name
cottontail evokes images of a cute little bundle of velvety fine
fur with coal black eyes and twitching whiskers. Cottontails are
most common in southern Alberta and on prairie lands.
Prints in the snow.
Hair Today and Gone Tomorrow!
Hare in its winter coat. Long hind legs give
it impressive, life-saving, burst-speed.
Snowshoe hares are not white year-round.
They grow new camouflage
as the seasons change.
Summer camouflage is rusty brown and
the winter coat
becomes a beautiful soft white color.
the ear tips are black.
They are born with black paws and develop
white paws which remain white year round.
is interesting to note that hares' fur does not change
efficiently in time with nature. An early winter will
see many brown bunnies running around with little natural
cover and an early or late spring can have make it difficult
for hares to hide as well.
and rabbits cannot effectively digest the cellulose
in the food they eat. Therefore they count on intestinal
bacteria to do the job while sometimes eating their
own droppings (pellets) to give the digestive tract
a second opportunity to absorb nutrients. It's a fact!
are a common sight in Edmonton on lawns and in the expansive
river valley park system
When food becomes scarce rabbits will actually curtail their
own breeding. Female rabbits form dominant heirarchies and take
control by not allowing younger females to breed.
Good places to see hares are the Edmonton River
Valley, the cypress hills and in clearings in the Rockies. They
usually will not venture far from bushes where they can take
refuge in a hurry.