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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: Historical Quote.

Omnivorous Herbivore

"Shot a hare..., its fur smeared with old grease, showing that it had been in our house eating blubber last autumn, after it had cast its coat. The house was empty for some months at that time".

- Freuchen 1935


Text: "Inuit Stories" in English and Inuktitut.

The Marriage of the Fox and the Hare

"The tale of 'the fox and the hare' tells how a hare married a female fox, promising to provide her with all the prey she needed to eat. Sadly, however, he was unable to live up to his job and, full of shame, told her that they should separate since he was unable to look after her. Full of tears, she left him, mourning the loss of her hare husband".

-Randa 1994

 

Image 1) An Arctic hare feeding next to a crater in winter snow.

Enlarge image.In soft snow an Arctic hare may dig deeper craters to reach for food plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat and Be Eaten

Food | Feeding | Predators | Parasites | Food Web

Food

Although we don't know everything about the diet of Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus), we do know that they feed on many different flowers and plants. Their main food is the Arctic willow (Salix arctica). They eat all parts of the plant. Their feeding can be destructive: they will break off sizable twigs and even dig up roots.

Image 2) An Arctic willow.

Enlarge image.An Arctic hare has chewed away some of the bark on this Arctic willow (Salix arctica).

 
Image 3) An Arctic hare chewing an Arctic willow twig.

Enlarge image.It takes about three minutes for an Arctic hare to eat a 25 cm-long (10 in.) Arctic willow (Salix arctica) twig.

The flowers of purple saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) are a favourite food in late spring and early summer. As it moves from plant to plant, the Arctic hare will mow the flowers down, eschewing the careful nibbling of the muskoxen and caribou, which share a liking for this plant.

Image 4) An Arctic hare eating purple saxifrage.

Enlarge image.This Arctic hare is eating purple saxifrage.

Although we classify them as herbivores, hares occasionally eat meat. At Sverdrup Pass on Ellesmere Island, David Gray saw hares nibble at the skin and hair on a muskox carcass. In Rankin Inlet (in Nunavut), Arctic hares frequent the town garbage dump in winter to search for food and in Baker Lake (in Nunavut) they break into garbage bags awaiting pick-up; presumably they are eating kitchen scraps, which, in this part of the world, likely contain little plant material.

Feeding

Hares in winter usually feed in areas where snow is shallow or plants are exposed by wind. When their food is buried under snow, Arctic hares rely on their sense of smell to locate it. They dig through snow with a rapid beating movement of their forefeet. In order to break a tough icy crust on top of the snow, they stamp sharply with their forefeet or chew at the crust with their teeth.

Image 5) An Arctic hare, digging.

An Arctic hare digging in snow in near-darkness. (Original version).

Icon of a video camera. Play the video:

QuickTime version (770 Kb MOV)

Windows Media Player version (475 Kb WMV)

 
Image 6) An Arctic hare, digging.

An Arctic hare digging in snow in near-darkness. (Colour-enhanced version).

Icon of a video camera. Play the video:

QuickTime version (770 Kb MOV)

Windows Media Player version (480 Kb WMV)

 
   

 

 

Next > Eat and Be Eaten page 2

 

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Last update: 2013-01-29
© Canadian Museum of Nature, 2004. All rights reserved.
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Image credits: 1) David R. Gray. 2) David R. Gray. 3) David R. Gray. 4) David R. Gray. 5) David R. Gray. 6) David R. Gray.