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Text: Mammals.
   
Arctic Hare
Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus.
Arctic hare, Lepus arcticus
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Where are they found? GreenlandNorth America

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The Arctic hare inhabits the tundra regions of Canada from Newfoundland and Labrador, west to the Mackenzie delta and north to the tip of Ellesmere Island. On the high Arctic islands Arctic hares retain their white coats year-round. At these higher latitudes they also sometimes band together into groups of up to 200 individuals. In large groups there is always one hare alert and ready to warn the sleeping majority of approaching danger.

In the extreme cold of the Arctic winter, they dig dens in hardened drifts. While resting, the Arctic hare will hunch into a heat-conserving ball, sitting on well-furred hind feet. When alarmed, the animal rises up onto hind legs to look for danger. Hopping upright on hind legs like a kangaroo, an Arctic hare can reach speeds estimated to be in excess of 50 km/h (30 MPH).

Like all hares, the young are born fully furred. The female stays with the young for the first three days after birth. Then the youngsters (averaging 5 or 6 per litter) disperse and hide. They come out only every 18 to 20 hours when the female returns to the site to nurse them for 1 to 4 minutes. After a week or so, they start venturing from their hiding places to begin nibbling on vegetation. They are weaned by the time they are 8 or 9 weeks old.

Woody plants are the basic year-round food of Arctic hares. This diet is supplemented during the short alpine summer with s, forbs and grasses.

Males average 4 kg (9 lb.), while females tend to be slightly heavier. Generally, Arctic hares tend to grow to a little more than 60 cm (2 ft.) long.

As adults, Arctic hares have few enemies besides the Arctic wolf. Some young Arctic hares, however, are taken by Gyrfalcons, Snowy Owls, Arctic foxes and ermines.


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Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus. Photo: Arctic Hare, Lepus arcticus.


Detail of upper incisors in an Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) skull.

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To cite this page for personal use:
“Arctic Hare”. [Online]. Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature.
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Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus).

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