Mountain Hare

Mountain hares, often regarded as a subspecies of Arctic hare, are found at northern latitudes across the globe, from Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland to Scandinavia, northern Russia and Siberia. Small populations also live in Japan, Ireland, Scotland and even the European Alps. They inhabit tundra, conifer forest and moorland in highland regions. In winter, the hares usually move to the shelter of the forest.

These hares are nocturnal, resting by day in a form (a depression dug into the ground). Mountain hares do not dig their own burrows, but often take over the burrows of other animals when they need to shelter their young. When not on the move, mountain hares "hook" before resting. This involves making a final jump to the side so that predators cannot follow the hare’s tracks.

Mountain hares moult twice a year. During the winter moult, from October to December, their fur becomes grey or even white, but the animals become brown again in the spring.

Mountain hares are mainly solitary, but in severe weather or at sites where food is plentiful they may congregate in large groups of up to 70. In the breeding season, several males will compete for access to a single female. If a male approaches an unreceptive female too closely, he may be aggressively rebuffed, with the female rising up on her hind legs and batting at him with her paws, claws extended. If the male persists, a longer fight may ensue, with both hares "boxing" and biting at each other.

Distribution: Northern hemisphere, from Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland to northern Europe and eastern Siberia.

Habitat: Tundra, forest and moorland.

Food: Leaves, twigs, lichen, grass and heather.

Size: 43 - 61 cm (17 - 24); 2 - 6 kg (4.5 - 13 lb).

Maturity: 1 year.

Breeding: Breeding season is from end of January to September. Litters of 1 - 6 young produced twice a year (sometimes more) in spring and summer; gestation varies from 47 to 54 days.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Common.