Hiking | Wildlife

Encounter with a Snowshoe Hare

The snowy and windy summit of Mount Moosilauke wasn’t a place to linger long. We’d summited and were about to head down below tree line to have lunch when I saw some rime ice building on a cairn and took my iPhone out to snap a couple of pictures of it. Just then I heard a shout from a couple of hikers nearby and a flash of motion. One of my hiking buddies shouted “It’s a Snowshoe Hare!” and a quick glance confirmed it was indeed. With the camera already on I was able to snap a few photos as the hare bounded around me and towards the cover of trees.

Snowshoe Hare

The Snowshoe Hare, with the excellent Latin name Lepus Americanus, is native to New Hampshire and loves throughout North America’s colder regions. Its hair turns from brown to white in the fall, triggered by the change in light just as leaves are. The hare I saw looked huge, but it was probably about 5 pounds, which is on the heavier side of their weight range. The distinctively huge rear paws act like snowshoes to launch the hare forward. It was literally born to run in snow.

As we descended from the summit we wondered what the heck the Snowshoe Hare ate in winter. Looking around there just wasn’t much edible stuff around. According to a State of New Hampshire survey on the animals, they eat up to 2/3 of a pound of “woody browse” per day, and also re-ingest their soft droppings…. yum. May have been better to leave it a mystery.

Seeing a Snowshoe Hare running through snow in the wild is absolutely thrilling. The only thing more thrilling would have been seeing a lynx or fox chasing after it in a high stakes race. Nothing like that today, just a bunch of appreciative hikers buzzing about the blur of white fur that graced us with a speedy show. And it proved that when you get out there you may just see something amazing.

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