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Text: Ukaliq the Arctic Hare.
Illustration of an Arctic hare paw print.
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Text: About the Arctic Hare. Photo: An Arctic hare. Text: Heritage, History and Art. Photo: A carving in walrus ivory of an Arctic hare. Text: Studying the Arctic Hare. Photo: David Gray looking through a spotting scope. Text: Games and Activities. Photo: An Arctic hare in mid-hop.
Texts: "About the Arctic Hare", and "Ukaliq" in Inuktitut syllabics. Photos: An Arctic hare and a maple leaf.

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Characteristics

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Individual Behaviour

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Habitat

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Social Behaviour

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Range

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Breeding Behaviour

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Populations

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Life Cycle

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Eat and Be Eaten

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Naming & Classifying
Text: Hare Portrait.
Image 1) An Arctic hare jumping away from a person.

Fast Green

Enlarge image.

Illustration of an Arctic hare paw print.
Image 2) Four Arctic hares on the top of a ridge.

Enlarge image.

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.

 

Range

In Canada | Home Range | Regular Movements | Herd Movements

Range in Canada

Image 3) Range map of the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus).
Enlarge image.Ranges 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.

Home Range

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.).

Regular Movements

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 females.

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.

   

 

   

 

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Last update: 2013-01-29
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Image credits: 1) David A. Gill. 2) David R. Gray. 3) Donna Naughton, Anne Botman, David R. Gray.