On the Trail
An intriguing trait of Arctic
hares is their inclination to follow each other
along recognized trails. These trails are particularly
evident on Ellesmere Island, where perhaps thousands
of feet have tramped and worn down the earth
and even the softer rocks. On seeing a herd of
hares travelling in single file along these trails,
one explorer recalled that it was like seeing
great white strings being pulled over the edge
of the mountain as the hares gradually disappeared.
In Canada | Home
Range | Regular Movements | Herd
Range in Canada
of the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus),
the Alaskan hare (Lepus othus) and the mountain hare (Lepus timidus).
Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) live above the treeline in
North America and in Greenland. In Canada, they live in the
tundra regions of Newfoundland and Labrador in the southeast,
throughout the barrens to the Mackenzie River Delta in the
west (Northwest Territories), and north across the Arctic
islands to the northernmost tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut.
The northernmost record of an Arctic hare was made in 1876
when a party from the British Polar Expedition encountered
the tracks of an Arctic hare on the sea ice, 27 km (17 mi.)
north of the northern coast of Ellesmere Island.
A home range is the area over which an animal normally travels
in search of food. David Gray learned
much about home ranges during his research at Sverdrup Pass
on Ellesmere Island:
Home ranges of individual hares overlapped considerably.
Male hares left their home ranges briefly during the mating
season. The home ranges of known Arctic hares occupied about
2.5 square kilometres (1 sq. mi.).
Although some sources speak of Arctic hares migrating, recent
studies do not support that idea. There may be regular seasonal
movements in some areas. For example, at Rankin Inlet, Nunavut,
some hares move from the mainland to smaller islands during
the late spring, before the ice of Hudson Bay breaks up.
The advantage to this movement is that there are fewer predators,
or none, on the islands.
At Sverdrup Pass in late winter, normal movements of Arctic
hares -- in groups and alone -- vary considerably from year
to year. While feeding over several hours, hares may cover
a distance of several kilometres or move within a square
kilometre. Sometimes, particularly in the mating season,
individual hares make deliberate, non-feeding movements of
up to 5 km within a short time. Such movement is probably
associated with males searching for receptive
Movements of Hare Herds
Large groups of hares probably do not stay within a 'group
home range'; it is likely that a herd would soon eliminate
the food supply if it did not cover considerably more ground.