Finding Hares | Tagging Hares | Watching Hares | Recording Observations
Finding Arctic Hares
How does a researcher find Arctic hares? Finding hares is
basically a visual search, which is fairly easy in the High
Arctic, the hares not having even a willow shrub in which
to hide. The presence or lack of fecal
pellets is a good
indication of whether hares can be expected in an area. The
number of fresh pellets found gives an idea of hare
Pellets around rocks or other sheltered areas also provide
a clue to precise locations for seeking hares.
Fecal pellets, urine and cratered snow identify a place where Arctic hares have been feeding.
Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) can be tracked by following
fresh tracks in snow. Even on hard snow drifts, the toe marks
of an Arctic hare can usually be discerned.
In summer, young hares can be found by following an obviously
lactating mother for 24 hours. Once during that period she
will visit the young to nurse them, so vigilant hare watchers
can find the nursing
site and determine the time interval
At Sverdrup Pass, Nunavut, David
Gray's research team live-trapped
Arctic hares in Tomahawk wire-mesh traps, using both single-door
and double-door opening systems. Dried apples were the most
Each hare was weighed, measured, colour-marked with picric
acid, and tagged with a small coloured and numbered ear-tag
of the type farmers use on pigs. Using different combinations
of coloured tags in one or both ears allowed at least 20
hares to be recognizable, even when tag numbers could not
be read. When using a spotting scope, some hares could be
identified from up to 2 km (1 mi.) away (in good light conditions),
and the tag number could be read from 175 m (574 ft.) away.
By the autumn of 1986, 16 adults and four young hares were
tagged. They represented almost 50% of the local population.
In April 1987 only two Arctic hares were seen, and that summer,
four tagged and 10 unmarked Arctic hares were observed. Two
additional hares were tagged in 1988 and 1990.
The standard hare-watching equipment is a spotting scope
or binocular telescope mounted on a tripod. The tripod makes
watching for long periods possible and frees the hands for
note-taking or photography. Scans for hares were made at
least twice per day from high points: partway up the glacier
in winter and hills in summer.
Observers watched Arctic hares at different times throughout
the 24-hour day but efforts were concentrated on the early-morning
and mid-afternoon active feeding cycles. During the breeding
season, more effort was spent on the midnight shift because
late-evening and early-morning are prime time for breeding
activity. After the young were born, summer observation hours
were determined by the nursing schedule of the mother hares.
Observations of hare behaviour were recorded in field notebooks
or on cassette tape-recorders. Notes were transcribed into
data books. Whenever possible observations were documented
using 35 mm cameras with telephoto lenses, and Super 8 or
16 mm movie cameras or a video camera.
|Air photos of Sverdrup Pass were used to record Arctic hare movements and home range.