Snowshoe Hare

From Ohio History Central


Scientific Name: Lepus americanus
Habitat: Forested areas with dense, woody undergrowth.
Adult Weight: 3 - 4 lbs.
Adult Body Length: 15 - 20 inches
Breeding Period: mid-March through August
Litters Per Year: 3 - 4
Litter Size: 1 - 8, average 2 - 4
Foods: Herbivore - Wide variety of plants such as grasses, ferns, dandelions, wild strawberries and clover. Winter foods include bark, twigs, evergreens and buds.


The Snowshoe Hare is slightly larger than the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Its name comes from its long feet with toes that spread to act as snowshoes. Its coat is a rusty-grayish brown during most of the year but during the winter it turns completely white, except for its eyelids and ear tips which are black.

Snowshoe Hares are nocturnal, staying near thickets during the day and coming out to eat in the evening.

The hare is an important prey species, especially to the Lynx. Other predators include bobcats, foxes, mink and coyotes. In order to avoid capture, the hare will remain motionless. Although it can often outrun its enemy (running up to 30 mph), it is an excellent swimmer and has been known to jump into a pond or river to escape.

Snowshoe hares have been extensively studied because of their population swings. Numbers may rise or drop dramatically in a year's time. The hare population in a square mile can vary from 1 to 10,000.



Archaeologists believe that during the early Archaic, while the climate in the Great Lakes area was still cool, hares were an important game species.


In 1779-80, Moravian missionary David Zeisberger wrote "Towards the north I have seen them [hares] of the same size as those in Europe. In that region some are found with a snow white fur."

Nineteenth Century

The first confirmed report of a Snowshoe Hare in Ashtabula County was not until in 1838.

Twentieth Century

Snowshoe Hares were extirpated from Ohio by the early 1900s.

Currently, the closest hare populations are in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Canada.

Between 1953 and 1959, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources released 604 hares in Ashtabula County, but the reintroduction failed.

In 2001, The Ohio Department of Natural Resouces released 95 Snowshoe Hare in Ashtabula County, with another 28 released in 2002. Current evidence is that they are successfully reproducing.

See Also