Huge Hare Herds | Dominance and Territory
Communication | Activity
Cycle | Play
The Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) is a social animal. Hares
live together in herds, which are either large groups or
scattered smaller groups.
Huge Hare Herds
From late winter through late summer, Arctic hares in the
northern islands may group together in herds of more than
100 individuals. There are also photographs and stories of
herds of thousands. Pilots recount stories of hillsides being
so covered with hares that the hills themselves appeared
to be moving.
Such enormous herds seem to be the exception rather than
the rule. We don't know why these herds form: it may be that
in years of high population smaller herds congregate together,
it might be a response to the coming of winter, or it might
be a strategy for avoiding predation.
Large herds of hares do not form at Sverdrup Pass. Unlike
other parts of Ellesmere Island, the Arctic hare population
in the pass is small and restricted to a relatively small
area by the valley walls and glaciers. In late winter, hares
there group together in herds of up to 30 individuals, though
some remain in pairs or alone. The size of the group changes
frequently. Larger groups remain together for only a few
hours, usually through one feeding and resting cycle.
Dominance and Territory
There is no evidence of territory formation in Arctic hares,
though dominant individuals will displace others from food
sources and shelters (forms or rocks).
At Sverdrup Pass, a hare named Blue Bun by David
displaced other hares from feeding craters and chased them
from baited traps. This dominance did not seem to influence
Blue Bun's mating success: Blue Bun and other apparently
dominant hares did not interfere as others attempted to mate
with females in the same group.