Lepus americanus - Erxleben, 1777
Snowshoe Hare
Other English Common Names: Varying Hare, snowshoe hare
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Lepus americanus Erxleben, 1777 (TSN 180112)
French Common Names: lièvre d'Amérique
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.104729
Element Code: AMAEB03010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Other Mammals
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Lagomorpha Leporidae Lepus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/msw/.
Concept Reference Code: B93WIL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Lepus americanus
Taxonomic Comments: Nagorsen (1985) examined cranial variation patterns throughout the range and found no basis for the recognition of the 15 subspecies included in Hall (1981). Non-native subspecies L. a. struthopus was introduced in western Virginia in the 1960s and 1970s and in West Virginia between 1937 and 1950; the introductions failed, and morphological evidence indicates that the native hare population did not incorporate L. a struthopus genes (Handley 1991).
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 04Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 05Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Sep1996)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (31Dec2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S5), California (SNR), Colorado (S5), Connecticut (S4), Idaho (S3), Maine (S5), Maryland (SH), Massachusetts (S4), Michigan (S4S5), Minnesota (SNR), Montana (S4), Nevada (S3), New Hampshire (S5), New Jersey (SX), New Mexico (S2), New York (S5), North Carolina (SX), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SX), Oregon (S4), Pennsylvania (S4), Rhode Island (S3S4), Utah (S3?), Vermont (S5), Virginia (S1), Washington (S5), West Virginia (S3), Wisconsin (S4), Wyoming (S5)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S5), Labrador (S5), Manitoba (S5), New Brunswick (S5), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (S5), Nova Scotia (S5), Nunavut (SU), Ontario (S5), Prince Edward Island (S5), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S5), Yukon Territory (S5)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Sierra Nevada (California/Nevada), Rocky Mountains (to south-central Utah and north-central New Mexico), northern Great Lakes region, and New England north through most of Canada and Alaska. Scattered populations occur in the Appalachian Mountains south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Introduced and established in forested areas of Newfoundland and Anacosti Island.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Populations declines in some parts of the Appalachians (e.g., Virginia) have been due in part to declining habitat quality (loss of adequate cover related in part to forest maturation) (Handley 1991). Heavy browsing by large deer populations can degrade habitat for snowshoe hare.

Short-term Trend Comments: Populations in some parts of the Appalachians (e.g., Virginia) have declined (Handley 1991).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Sierra Nevada (California/Nevada), Rocky Mountains (to south-central Utah and north-central New Mexico), northern Great Lakes region, and New England north through most of Canada and Alaska. Scattered populations occur in the Appalachian Mountains south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Introduced and established in forested areas of Newfoundland and Anacosti Island.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, CA, CO, CT, ID, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NCextirpated, ND, NH, NJextirpated, NM, NV, NY, OHextirpated, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NFexotic, NS, NT, NU, ON, PE, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: Sechrest, 2002

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA El Dorado (06017)*, Lassen (06035)*, Modoc (06049)*, Nevada (06057)*, Placer (06061), Plumas (06063), Shasta (06089)*, Sierra (06091), Siskiyou (06093), Tehama (06103)*, Trinity (06105)*, Tuolumne (06109)*
CT Litchfield (09005)*, Tolland (09013)*, Windham (09015)*
MD Allegany (24001)*, Garrett (24023)*
NV Carson City (32510), Douglas (32005)*, Washoe (32031)
PA Monroe (42089)*, Pike (42103)*, Tioga (42117)*
VA Highland (51091)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Shetucket (01100002)+*, Housatonic (01100005)+*
02 Lackawaxen (02040103)+*, Lehigh (02040106)+*, Tioga (02050104)+*, South Branch Potomac (02070001)+, North Branch Potomac (02070002)+*
05 Youghiogheny (05020006)+*, Greenbrier (05050003)+
16 Lake Tahoe (16050101)+, Truckee (16050102)+, Upper Carson (16050201)+*
18 Butte (18010205)+*, Trinity (18010211)+*, South Fork Trinity (18010212)+*, Lower Pit (18020003)+*, Mccloud (18020004)+, Middle Fork Feather (18020123)+, Upper Yuba (18020125)+*, North Fork American (18020128)+*, South Fork American (18020129)+*, Battle Creek (18020153)+*, Thomes Creek-Sacramento River (18020156)+*, Upper Tuolumne (18040009)+*, Upper Stanislaus (18040010)+*, Surprise Valley (18080001)+*, Honey-Eagle Lakes (18080003)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Reproduction Comments: Across the range, breeding season extends from February to mid-August. Gestation lasts 36-37 days. Young are born May-August; 1-4 litters/year. Litter size is 1-6, averages 3. Young are weaned at about 4 weeks (last litter of the season sometimes up to 6 weeks). Sexually mature in first spring (second calendar year). Lives usually no more than about 2 years, but up to about 5 years.
Ecology Comments: Basically solitary except when breeding. In some areas, populations fluctuate widely over 10-11 year cycle. Densities may vary from 1 to several hundred per square mile (Keith and Windberg 1978). In Wisconsin, fall populations of less than 10 hares frequenting patches of prime habitat of less than 5 ha are not likely to persist long without ingress; in the same area, coyote predation was the overwhelming determinant of survival and population trend (Keith et al. 1993). See Sinclair et al. (1988) for recent data on population dynamics and food quality and supply.

Taken by many avian and mammalian predators, including ground squirrels and red squirrels (Yukon, O'Donoghue and Stuart 1993).

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Home ranges usually fairly small: about 10 hectares for males (Adams 1959); averaged 8 hectares in Colorado and Utah (Dolbeer and Clark 1975); averaged about 3-6 ha (ranged up to nearly 16 ha) during peak phase of population density in Yukon Territory (Burton and Krebs 2003).

Home range size varies with location and season; most studies indicate a home range size averaging 5-20 ha (Handley 1991). Male ranges average larger than those of females. In Yukon Territory, Canada, 18 natal dispersal distances ranged from 23 m to more than 16 km (all but two were less than 3 km) (Gillis and Krebs 1999).

Palustrine Habitat(s): Bog/fen, FORESTED WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Prefers the dense cover of coniferous and mixed forests; abundant understory cover is important. Coniferous swamps and second-growth areas that are adjacent to mature forests, and alder fens and conifer bogs, are also utilized. Often in ecotones. Rests in daytime in dense cover. Nesting places may be made in a ground depression or hollow log. Underground burrows generally are avoided. Litters stay at natal sites for up to a few days or a week, gradually range farther away.
Adult Food Habits: Herbivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: In summer, eats succulent vegetation. In winter, diet consists of twigs, buds, bark of small trees. Also coprophagous.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Mainly crepuscular and nocturnal.
Length: 52 centimeters
Weight: 1400 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Management Requirements: See Williamson (no date) for information on habitat management.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Jackrabbits and Hares

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Major water bodies; arbitrarily set at those wider than 500 meters at low water.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 2 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 10 km
Separation Justification: For most species, unsuitable habitat includes dense forested vegetation and large water bodies that do not freeze.

For Lepus americanus, unsuitable habitat iincludes dense forest with no understory vegetation, open grassland and tundra, water bodies.

Jackrabbits and hares are highly mobile and warrant large separation distances for suitable habitat. Dispersal not uncommonly extends several kilometers and sometimes tens of kilometers. For example, in Idaho, L. californicus moved up to 45 km in a 17-week period (French et al. 1965). Snowshoe hares may move up to 8 kilometers occur when food is scarce (Banfield 1974). However, the extreme distances are too large to be used as a basis for establishing occurrence separation distances (the resulting occurrences often would be unreasonably large for conservation purposes). Separation distance for suitable habitat therefore is a compromise between the likely low probability that two occupied areas separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent truly independent populations and the need for occurrences of reasonable size.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .6 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a modest home range size of 30 hectares (see Separation Justification).
Date: 19Oct2004
Author: Cannings, S., and G. Hammerson
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 08Dec1993
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


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