Labrador’s snow­shoe hare

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Gary Shaw

Those among us who have a close and val­ued re­la­tion­ship with the land and the many trea­sures that it holds for us, we are cer­tainly fa­mil­iar with the snow­shoe hare that calls much of Labrador home.

Like any of the an­i­mals that live and share the Big Land with us, these hardy sur­vivors are a sta­ple in the di­ets of other an­i­mals that they share the great out­doors with, in­clud­ing the folks among us who seek them out for our ta­ble fare as well.

Although these an­i­mals were in­tro­duced to the is­land of New­found­land in the 1860’s, the snow­shoe hare is a na­tive species to Labrador.

Snow­shoe hares pre­fer young conif­er­ous growth, black spruce and tama­rack as well as the many alder beds that we see on our land­scape. These con­di­tions and the growth that it of­fers, pro­vides good shel­ter and the food that these an­i­mals re­quire.

In the big­ger pic­ture, these an­i­mals can be found through­out most of the bo­real for­est across Canada with their dis­tri­bu­tion reach­ing as far north as the shore­line of the Arc­tic Ocean.

Snow­shoe hares are an­i­mals that use each of the sea­son’s growth to their full ben­e­fit in pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary food that they need to sur­vive. They have a var­ied diet through­out the sea­sons that in­clude the new growth of the birch and wil­low trees in­clud­ing black spruce dur­ing the win­ter months. Dur­ing the warmer weather of spring and sum­mer, grasses, wild plants, rasp­ber­ries and fire­weed make up a steady part of their diet.

These snow­shoe hare are in con­stant de­mand from the nat­u­ral world and need to be watch­ing closely from all direc­tions in­clud­ing up. Lynx hunt these hares as the big­gest part of their diet. When, through the nat­u­ral cy­cle of these an­i­mals num­bers, the hare num­bers are high, so too are the lynx num­bers. Foxes, coy­otes, wolves, owls and other birds of prey are also nat­u­ral preda­tors that rely on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, on the hares as part of their di­ets.

In the big pic­ture, these hares don’t of­ten have a long life span. With the en­vi­ron­ment that they have to sur­vive in, and the many preda­tors that they are faced with on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, there are only a few that live be­yond three years.

These hares weigh be­tween two to four pounds de­pend­ing weather they are ma­ture an­i­mals or the young of the year. Their av­er­age length is be­tween 16 to 20 inches. They have very large back feet, hence the name, snow­shoe hare. Their big feet help them to stay on top of the snow dur­ing the win­ter months. They are darker brown color dur­ing the sum­mer months and turn white dur­ing the win­ter months.

These hares usu­ally have two lit­ters of young each year and some years they have been known to have three lit­ters from late April through un­til Au­gust month de­pend­ing on weather con­di­tions on any par­tic­u­lar year.

Their lit­ter size can range any­where from one or two to eight young. The ges­ta­tion pe­riod is 36 or 37 days. The young ones only nurse once a day and are able to sup­port them­selves af­ter only three weeks.

For us folks who en­joy these hares, there is more than one ben­e­fit. The pur­suit of these an­i­mals gives the op­por­tu­nity to have a great day in the coun­try and get some ben­e­fi­cial ex­er­cise as we make our way through the run­ways of these guys, set­ting and check­ing our snares. For many among us, this is a long­stand­ing part of our life­style and cul­ture.

A big ben­e­fit is when we get home and have them all cleaned and ready for the ta­ble. A lot of folks en­joy them bot­tled but we are only lim­ited by our imag­i­na­tions. Soup, fried in the old iron fry­ing pan, or in the roaster with a se­lec­tion of veg­eta­bles from our gar­dens are all ways to en­joy these great lit­tle an­i­mals. The only way that they can taste just a bit bet­ter than they would at home, is when we are at the cabin sit­ting by the wood stove, with folks that mat­ter the most to us, shar­ing this great Labrador bounty.

“Snow­shoe hares pre­fer young conif­er­ous growth, black spruce and tama­rack as well as the many alder beds that we see on our land­scape. These con­di­tions and the growth that it of­fers, pro­vides good shel­ter and the food that these an­i­mals re­quire.”

GARY SHAW — SPE­CIAL TO THE AURORA

A snow­shoe hare.

GARY SHAW — SPE­CIAL TO THE AURORA

Yum, a hare ready to eat.

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