It’s that time of year again, a nice covering of snow on the ground and Snowshoe Hare tracks are everywhere. Of coarse you have to have the right habitat to find Snowshoe tracks. Snowshoes, Lepus americanus prefer areas with dense cover such as softwood forests, densely covered wetlands and thickets.
If you happen to be hiking in these types of areas you’ll probably come across a set of hare tracks. Snowshoe hare tracks show four toes on the fore and hind foot when they register in the snow. You won’t always see the toes in each track when the snow is loose and powdery.
Whether you can see the toes or not the tracks are still unmistakable. Their tracks will show a series of four to five impressions. Usually the hind feet register ahead of the fore feet. The fifth impression which doesn’t always show, would be the tail. You can see an example of that in the image on the right.
The fore feet register as more of a circle or oval and are from 1. 5 to 2 inches wide. You will find the hind tracks in front of the two fore feet when you find Snowshoe Hare tracks. Most times the two fore feet register behind each others and not side by side.
One of the best places to find Snowshoe tracks is in a young Balsam forest. If you find tracks you may also find some Hare scat.
Snowshoe Hare scat is just like that of any rabbit, round in shape. Some people may tend to confuse their scat with that of deer but they really aren’t that much alike.
Hare scat tends to be round about 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter. Deer scat on the other hand are more oblong and each pellet tends to have a dimple on the end. This dimple is lacking on Snowshoe Hare scat.
Other evidence of Snowshoe hare presence may be their urine. Due to their diet their urine may be a yellowish orange to orangish red color. The color is from the pigments that are found in needles of spruce, fir and pine needles.
Other evidence of Snowshoe Hares being in the area are cuttings on branches, twigs and tree trunks. When Hares feed on plants their bite leaves a clean cut, at about a 45 degree angle. On tree trunks you would also be able to see the distinct marks left by their teeth with each chew. You can distinguish between whether a hare, rabbit or deer fed on a plant by the chewed or clipped end.
Rodents such as hares nip off the tip of a twig with a clean angled cut, whereas deer chew and rip of the end of twigs and leave a jagged or fibrous tip.
Snowshoe Hares are one of the few animals that change the color of their fur to match their surroundings. They are perfectly camouflaged in the winter, of course that depends on the their being snowfall. This changing of color is brought on by the length of day and not snowfall. Years where there is a definite lack of snow or late snowfall you can easily find a Snowshoe as they stick out like a sore thumb against the drab brown fall colors.
While snow certainly makes it harder to spot a perfectly concealed Hare it does make it easier to find Snowshoe tracks and scat.
Enjoy your time in the woods and enjoy Nature!!