Arctic Hare

There are 54 species of rabbit and hare, all of which belong to the same family, the Leporidae. They are found in many parts of the world, and some species have been introduced to areas well outside their original range. Strictly speaking, "hare" is the name given to members of the genus Lepus, while all other species in the family are referred to as rabbits.

Arctic hares live in northern North America, from Labrador and Newfoundland in the south to the Mackenzie River Delta in northern Canada. They also live on the many islands of the Canadian Arctic province of Nunavut. The arctic hares occupy both lowland an upland regions. In the far north, both these landscapes are covered by tundra, where the vegetation is mostly small, ice-resistant plants such as mosses and hardy grasses. The arctic hares make their homes in areas of broken ground, where rocks provide some shelter. In summer, larger plants grow in these sheltered spots, and in winter they do not freeze as deeply as exposed areas.

The winter coat of the Arctic hare is white, with black tips to the ears. In summer, the fur is a variety of colours, depending on where the hare lives. In the tundra, for example, the hares are blue-grey. The long claws are used for digging in ice and snow.

Arctic hares are most active at dawn and dusk. They forage on their own, but sometimes form loose colonies of up to 300 animals, probably to give some protection against Arctic foxes, polar bears and other predators.

Distribution: Northern Canada and Greenland.

Habitat: Tundra.

Food: Mosses, lichens, leaves, berries, roots and carrion.

Size: 40 - 76 cm (15.5 - 30); 1.2 - 5 kg (2.5 - 11 lb).

Maturity: 1 year.

Breeding: Mating occurs in April and May; single litter of up to 5 young born in summer.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Common.