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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
Illustration of an Arctic hare paw print.
Image 1) An Arctic hare sitting between two biologists.

Enlarge image.

Evading Capture

David Gray saw Arctic hares use unusual strategies to evade capture. Twice, a hare being chased by an Arctic fox hopped up to a human observer and stayed within 3 m (3 ft.) until the fox gave up and departed. On another occasion, three hares being pursued by wolves ran into the midst of a muskox herd and rested there until the wolves gave up the chase.


Text: Historical Quote.

Itchy Socks

"These hares are the hosts of extraordinary numbers of fleas... In the Cape York district, where hare skins are used for stockings, it sometimes happens that a hare is shot and the skin dried and cured in a very short time, before the parasites are dead, with the result that with the new stockings one receives a colony of fleas. Their bite is extremely painful and gives an idea of how they must torture a hare".

- Freuchen 1935

 

 

Eat and Be Eaten

Food | Feeding | Predators | Parasites | Food Web

Predators

Both mammals and birds prey upon the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus). The Arctic wolf is perhaps the most successful of the animals known to prey on adult hares. Even young wolves during their first autumn can successfully catch hares.

Although smaller than Arctic hares, Arctic foxes will attack a full-grown hare, but usually without much success. Young hares, however, often fall prey to hungry foxes, and ermines (Mustela erminea) probably also prey on young hares.

Image 2) An Arctic wolf.

Enlarge image.Arctic wolf (Canis lupus).

 
Image 3) An Arctic fox chasing a group of hares.

An Arctic fox chases a group of hares.

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Among the predatory birds, the Gyrfalcon is a major hunter of hares. In summer, when the Gyrfalcons are raising their young, they regularly carry hares to the nest, first cutting them in half to ease the load. Hare bones and feet form part of the structure of Gyrfalcon nests on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. Farther south, Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) also prey on Arctic hares.

Image 4) An adult Gyrfalcon feeding its young at their nest.

Enlarge image.Hare feet are visible at this Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) nest.

 
Image 5) An Arctic hare fleeing a Snowy Owl.

Enlarge image.This Arctic hare is fleeing from a cruising Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). The flared nostrils and the ear pointing behind are typical of alarm and flight behaviour.

Snowy Owls also feed on hares, particularly the young. The French common name of the Snowy Owl, harfang des neiges, comes from the old Anglo-Saxon name harfang, meaning 'hare-catcher'.

Parasites

Arctic hares, like most mammals, have their share of parasites and diseases. Internally, hares are known to harbour several kinds of parasitic worms, and externally they are bothered by a number of different fleas, the type depending on the location of the hare population.

   

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Last update: 2013-01-29
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Image credits: 1) David R. Gray. 2) David R. Gray. 3) David R. Gray. 4) S.D. MacDonald. 5) David R. Gray.