Lepus americanus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Lepus americanus
Species Authority: Erxleben, 1777
Common Name(s):
English Snowshoe Hare, Snowshoe Rabbit, Varying Hare
Taxonomic Notes: Lepus americanus is taxonomically distinct from all North American Lepus and not known to hybridize with any species. For the most part, L. americanus is geographically isolated from congeneric species.

There are currently 15 recognized subspecies: Lepus americanus americanus, L. a. bairdii, L. a. cascadensis, L. a. columbiensis, L. a. dalli, L. a. klamathensis, L. a. oregonus, L. a. pallidus, L. a. phaeonotus, L. a. pineus, L. a. seclusus, L. a. struthopus, L. a. tahoensis, L. a. virginianus, and L. a. washingtonii (Hall 1981).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Murray, D. & Smith, A.T.
Reviewer(s): Johnston, C.H. and Smith, A.T. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
Lepus americanus is a widespread species. Populations seem to be healthy, overall, although there exists concern over the status of southeastern USA populations. The status of distinct subspecies along the Pacific coast is unclear.
History:
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Lepus americanus appears in boreal and mixed deciduous forests of North America. It occurs in all provinces of Canada, except Nunavut. In the USA it is present in Alaska, as well as the western mountain states of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Colorado, and small pockets in high elevation areas in New Mexico, Utah, and California. Its distribution also includes the Great Lakes region and eastern states of Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Historically in mountain portions of West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, but those populations seem to have declined recently.
Countries:
Native:
Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland I, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward I., Qu├ębec, Saskatchewan, Yukon); United States (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population is more or less continuous in Canada and Alaska but patchily distributed in the contiguous USA. Populations in the boreal forest fluctuate according to a 10-year cycle, where their densities may vary 100-fold over the span of several years. Southern populations may be noncyclic or fluctuate with reduced amplitude.

The status of southeastern populations is unclear, but the range limit may be receding northward. This may be related to habitat loss, increase in predator (especially coyote) numbers, and perhaps climate change and loss of snow during winter.
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Lepus americanus is associated with boreal and mixed deciduous forest of North America. It requires fairly dense vegetation, which it uses as cover. This species requires snow cover, because of its white winter pelage. Two subspecies along the Pacific coast fail to turn white and may be more common in Pacific forests with little or no winter snow cover. Requires mixed forest with dense understory. Typically, stands aged 25-40 years are ideal. L. americanus also seems to favor edge habitat. Diet consists mostly of grasses, forbs, sedges, and ferns (Murray 2003).

The total length of L. americanus is 36.0 - 52.0 cm (Banfield 1974; Hall 1981). The breeding season of L. americanus is from March to September and is subject to photoperiod control (Murray 2003). The average number of litters by L. americanus varies according to location with 1.9 litters per year in Alaska and 3.8 litters per year in Wisconsin (Murray 2003). Litter size varies according to location and number of previous litters produced (Murray 2003).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: 5% of the total population is utilized. It is modestly used for food, and to a small extent the fur is used by natives.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Southern populations may be subject to excessive habitat loss and fragmentation, perhaps climate change plays a contributory role as well.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In some southern states, hunting has been closed either temporarily or permanently to try to restore populations. The efficacy of such efforts usually has not been monitored carefully. In some cases hares have been stocked in an attempt to bolster the populations. This method also seems to have limited utility because captive-bred hares are highly vulnerable to predation and transplanted wild hares often succumb to death in captivity during transport. Conservation and management efforts have been recommended for the New Mexico extent of L. americanus, stemming from the restricted distribution and low abundance (Frey and Malaney 2006).

Lepus americanus is known to occur in the following U.S. National Wildlife Refuges (NWR):
Tetlin NWR (as of 2003)
Sherburne NWR
Seney NWR (as of 2004, reported as abundant)
Innoko NWR
Koyukuk NWR
Red Rock Lakes NWR (found in forested areas)
Kodiak NWR (as of 2006, reported as common)
Alaskan Peninsula/Becharof NWR (as of 2003)
Rachel Carson NWR (as of 2001, reported as common).

Bibliography [top]

Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The Mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press.

Frey, J. K. and Malaney, J. L. 2006. Snowshoe haren(Lepus americanus) and mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) biogeography at their southern range limit. Journal of Mammalogy 87(6): 1175-1182.

Hall, E.R. 1981. The Mammals of North America. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Murray, D. L. 2003. Snowshoe hare and other hares (Lepus americanus and allies). In: G. A. Feldhamer, B. Thompson and J. A. Chapman (eds), Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management and conservation, pp. 147-175. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.


Citation: Murray, D. & Smith, A.T. 2008. Lepus americanus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 August 2014.
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