Red Deer River Naturalists

The Red Deer river Naturalists are a group dedicated to learning about and preserving natural history. They have regular programs with speakers and many field trips.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lepus Americanus Sightings

       One of my favorite little mammals is what is called snow shoe hare http://blog.talkaboutwildlife.ca/ or what I like to call the bush rabbit. I know you'll get tired of this statement but here goes. As a child in central Saskatchewan there was still a fair bit of brush left. The natural areas were close together. At times the brush was absolutely crawling with these little guys. Many could be spotted at the same time.

       Most farms at this time had border collie which was used to herd cattle. We had Jack, who was a very good dog for handling cattle. But Jack had a few flaws. Jack thought that the snow shoe hares needed to be herded so Jack went tearing into the brush to herd the rabbits where ever he thought they should go. He ran through the brush yapping at  a high pitch. After a while he would come back totally wiped with a smug look on his face as if to say. "I sure sent those guys packin." He probably chased all of them to the next patch of brush or the rabbits may have played tricks on him by each leading him off the trail.
     Jack also liked to ride on any tractor that moved. If a rabbit jumped out in front of the tractor Jack jumped forward between the tractor fender and engine and proceeded to give chase. The white tailed jack rabbits were too fast for him to herd so he would come back and you had to stop and let him get back on the tractor. One time Jack got momentarily hung up on his great leap off the tractor and fell. The tractor wheel ran over his back end. He yelped in great pain , but a few days later he was recovered and back on the tractor. Luckily the ground was soft so he was not seriously injured. From then on he was not allowed to leap off the tractor.

       I have not seen much of this species for probably 6 to 8 years. I know they go through tremendous cycles , but I don't ever remember going for so many years and not seeing any individuals.

      Today I cross country skied at River Bend Golf course at Red Deer and was surprised to so lots of evidence of snow shoe hares. Their tracks are everywhere and a tremendous number of droppings are present. So it would seem that there is a fair number in that area. The light today was extremely poor and I did not spend much time looking for them.

       Has anybody else seen them this year? Please leave a comment if you've seen them in other areas.

2 comments:

  1. Is there a difference between a snowshoe hare and a jackrabbit? I had to look it up.
    It turns out that they are both hares (belonging to the Lepus genus) but the snowshoe hare is much smaller and cuter (more "bunny"-like). Snowshoe hares are famous icons of the boreal forest but in Alberta their range overlaps the prairie jackrabbit.

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  2. I think we're all a little fuzzy about these two species. There's an incredible amount of detail about them and they are extremely important in our ecosystem.

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