IUCN Redlist Status
Location and Habitat
Arctic hares can be found in the tundra regions of extreme North America, in Canada and Greenland. They spend most of their time in rocky, mountainous regions. It is important for them to find areas where there is enough cover to prevent the snow from getting too deep. This allows the plants they eat to grow even in harsh conditions.
Arctic hares are herbivores. Their diet is limited by the variety of plants that grow in the arctic regions. They will eat willow twigs, mosses, roots and other plants. In warmer months they may find treats such as berries, buds and leaves.
These hares are the largest species of hare found in North America. Fully grown, they are approximately 18 to 25 inches in length. Hares generally are larger than rabbits, and have longer ears and hind legs.
They have bright white coats to blend with their snowy surroundings. In the summer, their coat changes to a gray color, again to help them camouflage. Those that live in regions that are snowy year round will keep their white coats all year long. Arctic hares also have a bit of black on the tips of their ears.
Behaviors and Adaptations
Arctic hares have long claws that help them dig through the snow to find food.
Their long, muscular legs make them exceptionally fast runners. They have been known to reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour (64.4km/h).
They are at times solitary animals and at other times social. They will sometimes huddle together in groups to help preserve body heat.
These hares are somewhat unique in that during mating season, as they tend to disperse rather than congregate. Mating pairs establish territories of their own. Males will sometimes mate with more than one female in a season. Mating season for arctic hares is in the spring, usually during April and May. After a gestation period of around 50 days, the young hares, called leverets, are born in the late spring or early summer.
When they are born, leverets have their eyes open and are already covered in hair. There are usually 2 to 8 leverets in the litter, with the average being about 5 or 6. They are protected by their mother for the first few days of life and will be sexually mature in time for next year’s breeding season.
Arctic hares are hunted for their meat and pelts by those who live in their range, but they are not considered endangered.
Arctic hares have a lifespan of about 5 years, and the young mature much faster than other hare species.