Flash version (3.5 Mb)
Arctic hare tracks show that several hares joined and followed the track. The hares were probably all males looking for the same female.
Display | Investigative | Aggressive | Sexual
In order for breeding to progress, male Arctic hares (Lepus
arcticus) have to find females and assess their sexual status
by smell. Thus, the major investigative behaviour during
the breeding season is the approach by adult males to any
other individual. Each male is searching for a receptive
female with which to copulate. He will know if she is receptive
by her scent (hormones) and her behaviour (not aggressive).
The investigating male usually moves cautiously, with hesitant
steps, twitching nose and forward ears. The male usually approaches
from a downwind position, often requiring a circling approach.
If the approaching male is upwind and the individual under
investigation is unaware of his approach, the approaching
hare may touch the rear of the other. This may lead to an aggressive
encounter if the approached hare is not a receptive female.
A male Arctic hare with ears in a position like the letter V approaches a female.
Usually males approach any individual that approaches the
group, regardless of whether it's an unknown hare or a straying
member returning to a group. At the height of the breeding
season, these approaches become more common and, at times,
almost frantic as several males circle and investigate the
same individual and even each other. The reaction of the
female determines the approaching hare's next move. If the
female leaves, he may chase after her. He may simply depart
after sniffing, he may face aggression or he may approach
more closely and initiate sexual contact.
Besides approaching females in the group, in late April
and early May males at Sverdrup Pass on Ellesmere Island
were seen by David Gray making direct searching movements
in a straight line, across the pass, up into moraines and
into boulder fields, presumably looking for other females.
They travel with ears held up in a V-position and appear
more 'intent' than normal. On reaching a boulder the male
hare will check all around the base, sniffing intently,
before moving on to another location. Males may travel
out of their normal home range, but only for short distances.
The constant checking of all individuals and the searching
behaviour of males would mean that all receptive females
in an area would likely be encountered by at least one