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
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
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.
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
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.
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.