Snowshoe rabbits aren't really rabbits; they are hares. They are found throughout the northern regions of North America. They are called snowshoe rabbits because they have large hind feet to make it easier for them to run on snow.
They are also called varying hares because in the summer they have a brown coat and in winter they have a white coat. This change of color allows them to hide easily, no matter what the season.
The snowshoe hare is larger than most wild rabbits, reaching 3 to 4 pounds at maturity. Their large feet are covered with fur, which gives them traction on the snow and ice as well as protects them from the cold. They also spread their toes when they run to make their feet wider and give themselves a broader base.
They have 3 or 4 litters per year, each with 1 to 8 kits being born. Gestation lasts 35 to 40 days. Females can become pregnant again anytime after the 35th day, so technically they can conceive a new pregnancy before the first litter is born. They have twin uteri, which makes this possible.
Babies are born fully furred with open eyes. Usually they grow beyond the newborn state within 24 hours after birth. Females normally breed as yearlings. They are alert and active year round.
Snowshoes have been clocked at 27 miles per hour when they are running. They can also jump up to 10 feet in a single hop. Their main predators are the lynx, weasels, martens, bobcats, minks, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions and wolves. They are also prey for owls, hawks and eagles.
One of their best strategies to avoid their predators when being chased is to change directions suddenly in midstride. These hares are also excellent swimmers and have been known to jump into the water to escape an enemy.
Snowshoe rabbits are herbivores. They live on the plants and shrubs that grow in the boreal forests in North America. They prefer to live in shrubby and forested areas that offer some protection.
During times of deep snow, the rabbits are able to reach upper branches on some shrubs for browsing. Twigs, branches and small stems make up most of their forage during the winter. During the rest of the year, they eat new shoots, leaves, grasses and more.
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