Possible effects of climate change
As Arctic hares already occupy much of the Canadian Arctic, climate change would have little effect on the range in which these mammals live. As the climate becomes warmer, once-barren areas could see an increase in vegetation and food, leading to a rise in the number of hares. Arctic hares have evolved to blend in with their environment to make escaping predators easier. During the summer months, hares in the northern part of the Arctic have a mostly white coat, while those living in the south are grey. If the climate changes, these variations in colour may also change.
The breeding cycle
At the start of the breeding cycle during springtime, male Arctic hares perform a unique display, which may influence the female hares’ readiness for mating. Once females begin their breeding cycle, “March madness” ensues, with males approaching, following, and chasing any female hare that appears. Female Arctic hares nurse their young on a suckling schedule of every 18.5 hours, instead of the usual 24 hours. When a mother leaves its young after a short time of nursing, young hares are able to anticipate when she will return many hours later. Each day they move closer to where she will come into view, allowing for a daily change in time and place for nursing. These tactics prevent the possibility of predators clueing in on a daily feeding schedule or location and attacking the young hares.
The Arctic hare is larger than an Arctic fox. The thick winter fur on its ears and body help to reduce heat loss in the cold environment, while the thick fur on the hind feet allow the Arctic hare to sit for hours on the cold snow. The claws on their front feet help them to dig through snow to feed on the plants below. Arctic hares have large eyes located at the side of their head. The position of their eyes gives hares an extremely wide range of vision. Without turning their head, they can see almost 360° around them, making it difficult for predators to approach unseen.