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Text: Ukaliq the Arctic Hare.
Illustration of an Arctic hare paw print.
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Text: About the Arctic Hare. Photo: An Arctic hare. Text: Heritage, History and Art. Photo: A carving in walrus ivory of an Arctic hare. Text: Studying the Arctic Hare. Photo: David Gray looking through a spotting scope. Text: Games and Activities. Photo: An Arctic hare in mid-hop.
Texts: "Studying the Arctic Hare", and "Ukaliq" in Inuktitut syllabics. Photos: David Gray looking through a spotting scope and a maple leaf.


Research Project


Field Notes


Study Area


Hare Collections


Research Methods




Hare Portraits




Image 1) Game: Spot the Hare. Text: No-one will find me... Spot the Hare. Photo: A young Arctic hare.
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The Study Area

Research Period

The study area chosen for David Gray's Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) research project was a 7 km (4 mi.) stretch of Sverdrup Pass, which is an 80 km-long (50 mi.) pass that runs across northern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.

The study area is about 600 m (1968 ft.) above sea level. It is bounded on the north side by mountains rising to 1500 m (4920 ft.) above sea level, and to the south by mountains and a valley glacier leading up to a major icecap rising to more than 2000 m (6560 ft.).

Within the study area of the pass, the sandy flats in mid-valley with scattered clumps of Arctic willow (Salix arctica) lead to better-vegetated slopes that in turn lead up to scree slopes. In sheltered ravines, along stream banks and on old glacial moraines, there are extensive patches of sedge-meadow vegetation. At the terminus of the glacier are extensive areas of boulders that range up to 4 m (13 ft.) in size as well as several mounds of glacial till.

Image 2) Six Arctic hares.

Enlarge image.Arctic hares feeding on the slopes of 'Hare Castle', Sverdrup Pass, in spring.

Image 3) Field camp with glacier behind.

Enlarge image.This small hut was 'home' for researchers at Sverdrup Pass between 1985 and 1990. With metal framework, insulated blankets and a wooden floor, it provides a warm shelter from Arctic winter weather.

The climate in Sverdrup Pass in April is characterized by a gradual increase in average daily temperature from 30°C to 10°C (-22°F to 14°F). Average monthly wind speeds in late winter ranged from 11 km/h to 20 km/h (7 mph to 12 mph). Periods of calm are rare, happening only while the wind-direction changes from easterly to westerly.

In the boulder areas, snow drifts can be several centimetres deep but in the centre of the pass the wind keeps large areas virtually snow-free.

In May average temperatures rise to 0°C (32°F), and the snow begins to melt and evaporate. Snowstorms and blizzards can still occur in April and May.

Research Period

Observations on breeding behaviour were made at Sverdrup Pass in late winter in five years: 1986 (April 6 to May 6), 1987 (April 23 to May 7), 1988 (April 26 to May 18), 1989 (April 26 to May 18), and 1992 (April 20 to May 10). More than 320 hours of observations were recorded in the five years of study.

Summer or autumn observations were also made in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990.






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Last update: 2012-02-20
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Image credits: 1) S.D. MacDonald. 2) David R. Gray. 3) David R. Gray.