Field Guide/Mammals/Snowshoe Hare

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Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare)
Family: Leporidae
Size: Total length: 20 in. (508 mm.). Tail Length: 2 in. (50.8 mm.). Weight: 3 lbs. (1.36 kg).[1]
Description: The Snowshoe Hare is a medium-sized rabbit. It has a brown coat in the summer, and a white coat during the winter.[1] The soles of its hind legs are densely furred and large, forming the characteristic snowshoe.[2]
Similar Species: The Snowshoe Hare is similar to but slightly taller than the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus).[1]

Range: Northern species found as far north as Alaska and over most of Canada.[1]
Habitat: Dense woodlands and forest bogs.[1] Open fields, fence rows, and coniferous lowlands.[2]
Diet: Grass, clover, and ferns in the summer. Bark and twigs in the winter.[1] Also eat their own feces.[2]
Activity: Nocturnal.[3] Most active during dawn and dusk during periods of low light. Sleep and groom throughout the day.[2]

Reproduction: Mates in February through July. Gestation period of 36 days. Typical litter size of 4 (3-4 litters per year).[1] Weaned at 14-28 days. Polygynandrous (males and females both have multiple mates).[2]
Lifespan: 5 years in the wild. Up to 85% do not live longer than 1 year.[2]

Notes: Much of the Snowshoe Hare’s digestion occurs in the hindgut. Therefore, to extract all of the available nutrients they will often eat their own feces to cycle their food through a second time. The Snowshoe Hare can run up to 27 MPH and leap 10 ft. in a single bound.[2]

Common predators include Coyotes (Canis latrans) Lynxes (Lynx lynx), Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus), and Red-Tailed Hawks (Butao jamaicensis).[1]

Snowshow Hare’s are accomplished swimmers and often swim to escape predators (2). Snowshoe Hares have very dramatic population fluctuations over 10-year cycles thought to be accredited to over-grazing. Females are typically larger than males.[4]
Snowshoe Hare Lepus americanus


  1. a b c d e f g h Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (2012), Lepus americanus 
  2. a b c d e f g Shefferly, N. (2007), Lepus americanus 
  3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2012), Lepus americanus 
  4. Ruland, C. (2012), Lepus americanus