It’s almost that time again! Peter Cottontail is about to hop to work and deliver all those Easter treats…but here at Environment and Parks, we thought it would be fun to get just a hare off topic.
Rabbits and hares. How many kinds do we have in the wild in our province? What are their similarities? What makes them different? What better way to find out then to just leap into the topic?
In Alberta, we have one type of rabbit and two types of hares that frequent our landscape. The mountain cottontail is our resident rabbit and the snowshoe hare and white-tailed jackrabbit make up the hare populations – that’s right, a jackrabbit is in fact a hare.
Finding things in common
Both the rabbit and hare breed, quite literally, like rabbits having three to eight litters of three to eight young each year! They’re furry, have short tails, long ears and though their tastes are different, they are both vegetarians and can be considered pests by gardeners and farmers, often destroying crops and trees.
Another commonality is that both molt and grow new fur in the spring and fall, though hares in cold, snowy regions such as ours will grow white fur in the winter months whereas the mountain cottontail’s fur does not change colour. Both rabbits and hares have a lifespan of about six years
This is where the similarities end.
What a difference!
Rabbits and hares are very different from the day they are born. Rabbit babies, called a kittens, kits or, of course, a bunnies, are born blind and without fur. They will not be able to survive on their own. Baby hares, or leverets, are born with fur and they can see – making them able to fend for themselves almost immediately after they are born.
Physically, hares are generally larger and faster, they have longer ears and larger feet and stronger, longer hind legs.
Hares make their nests above ground while most rabbits tend to burrow. Rabbits are also social animals and live primarily in colonies – this is likely why they make good pets. Hares live a more solitary life, only coming together to pair up and mate.
Jumping to Conclusions
There are many sayings and superstitions associated with rabbits and hares alike. A rabbit’s foot is lucky but if a rabbit runs around you counter-clockwise it will bring bad luck and someone can be “mad as a March hare” or perhaps “harebrained”.
No matter what your beliefs when it comes to these species, one thing is for sure, Alberta’s rabbit and hare populations are hoppy and healthy!