Mammals of Alaska Week: Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus)
Snowshoe hares live in Canada and the northern United States. Their name comes from their amazingly adapted hind feet, which are large and broad with a stiff coat of hair that lets them walk on top of snow. Their other impressive adaptation is their coloring. In the summer, they’re reddish brown, but when fall comes, they begin molting, replacing their brown fur with a new, fluffy white coat. In between the two coats, their fur is patchy, like patchy snow that falls and melts in the autumn or spring. Young snowshoe hares especially rely on this protective coloration to escape predators. They’ll freeze when they sense danger, trying to blend into the background. Older hares will often choose to run instead, and they can go as fast as 27 miles an hour.