Mountain hare

Lepus timidus

TAXONOMY

Lepus timidus Linnaeus, 1758, Uppsala, Sweden. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Blue hare, varying hare; French: Lièvre variable; German: Schneehase; Spanish: Liebre variable.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 18-24 in (46-61 cm); weight 4.4-10.4 lb (2,000-4,700 g). A medium-sized hare with long hind feet and short ears; summer fur is brown and turns mostly white in winter.

DISTRIBUTION

Circumpolar in tundra and taiga habitats from Britain to Japan. HABITAT

Common in tundra, taiga habitats, and mixed forests. Prefer transition zones with open clearings, and in swamps and river valleys. In Scotland found on heather moorland, and in Ireland and Hokkaido, Japan also on agricultural land.

BEHAVIOR

A solitary animal. During mating season, it can be seen in groups, sometimes fights upright on its hind legs.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Leaves and twigs of willow, rowan, birch, juniper, aspen, and heather; in tundra, alpine plants, especially dwarf willow, and blueberry are important. Palatable grasses and herbs are eaten in the summer when available: grasses, sedge, and dicotyledons.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Promiscuous. In tundra areas, only one litter per year with a mean litter size of five to six young, but up to four litters per year depending on the length of the vegetation season with a mean litter size of two to four. At birth, the young are fully furred, their eyes are open, and they start suckling at once.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Very widespread and abundant over most of its range; not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Important game species; may damage crops and tree plantations. ♦

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