Snowshoe hare or Alaska hare?

Since I reorganized my office, I can now see our backyard better which gives me a better chance to observe any critters out there. Today I caught a glimpse of two white blurs streaking low through the trees and brush. Snowshoe hares chasing each other! I have been seeing their tracks in the snow all winter, but this was the first time I had seen them this winter (they tend to feed at night). They raced back and forth several times and then disappeared before I could gather any camera gear. With the thawing and freezing cycles that we have been having lately, they were able to bound with abandon on top of the crusty snow. I have wanted to make a good winter photo of one and am still working on completing that project!

The hares and I have been co-existing here on the lower hillside for years and I often see them early in the morning during the summer months. In fact, they have become a pest getting into my raspberry patch, bending over young canes and eating the new top growth. Who knew they liked raspberry plants? As a side note, I also had trouble with porcupines and an occasional moose chomping on my beloved raspberry plants last summer. (I now have a fence).

But, back to the question. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, there are two species of hares present in Alaska, the Alaska hare and the snowshoe hare. The Alaska hare (somewhat rare) is much larger than the snowshoe hare and is found only in western coastal Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula. The snowshoe hare is widely spread throughout much of interior Alaska but not abundant in Southeast Alaska. Most of us who have spent time in Denali have seen the population of snowshoe hares fluctuate wildly in a cyclic manner. They have two to three litters per year and each litter may produce 3-8 leverets (young hares). Although it is estimated that 85% of snowshoe hares won’t live more than one year, their numbers can grow to 600 animals per square mile.