The snowshoe hare is one of only a few animals whose coloration changes dramatically with the seasons. Now is the time of the year when their fur has morphed from brown – to blend in with the grasses – to white, so they are nearly invisible in the snow. This article, by Mark Krepps, appeared in Washington state’s Bellingham Herald newspaper:
Snowshoes are found throughout Idaho, mostly in the north, central and eastern parts of the state. It’s one of their adaptations to the terrain they inhabit.
They are taller than rabbits and sport large, furry feet that help them move with ease over snow-covered ground in the winter.
Their renowned transformation usually takes up to 10 weeks to complete.
The change in coloration is a defense against predators. It makes it extremely difficult to see the hare’s white fur against a snowy backdrop.
Of course, it stands to reason the same is true as it alters physical appearance to match the vegetation during spring, changing back to a brownish hue to blend seamlessly with surrounding foliage.
As seasons extend or shorten, length of sunlit hours sets off an internal change in many animals to shed, molt, or otherwise transform their appearance. Snowshoe hares are no different.
Overall, they are remarkably fast for their size, which bodes well for them because their predators are equally as nimble.
These little fellows can run up to 27 miles per hour and jump nearly 10 feet in one leap. Their ability to change direction in a moment is one of their best defenses, along with remarkably acute hearing.
You can read the complete article online at http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/11/26/2781232/look-hard-its-harely-there.html
Because their fur color change is triggered by the shortening amount of sunlight, and not by the color of the snow on the ground, hares can get into trouble when Mother Nature does not make the ground white at the right time. It happened recently in Montana, when a lack of snow made the white snowshoe hares all too visible against the still-brown landscape. They became easy prey for coyotes, wolves and other predators.