Every animal needs a home, even wild animals, not just for them, but also for their young. To accomplish this, many animals get creative when finding shelter.
Some animals like bears just live in whatever caves and holes they find, but others such as beavers, go the extra mile and create a home from scratch.
Then there are the snowshoe hares which are a bit of both. While they will happily rest in most places as they are, they can make the environment work in their favor by modifying their nests when necessary.
Aside from improving their home, it is crucial for their newborns who require optimal conditions to survive.
Read on, as Floofmania dives into everything there is to know about snowshoe hare’s nests and shelters!
What’s A Snowshoe Hare’s Nest?
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You will be mistaken if you think a snowshoe hare’s nest is like a bird’s nest. There are a few key differences to remember, first, snowshoe hares don’t make their nests from scratch, and second, they don’t live in their nests for nearly as long as birds.
Most nests consist of a site they find in the forest such as a hole or tree where they can hide and be protected from predators. They will then spruce it up to make it more hospitable by adding leaves and grass. For snowshoe hares, it means having less control of how their nest looks since they depend on what they find in contrast to birds which shape everything themselves.
That is the other big difference between hares and birds. For our furry friends, nests are only for the young and not a permanent shelter.
When they do not have babies, snowshoe hares will sleep almost anywhere, as long as it offers adequate protection. They will often not bother modifying their shelter and use it as is.
What Does A Snowshoe Hare’s Nest Look Like?
Snowshoe hare nests are usually found in holes in the ground or hollowed-out logs. These places can protect their new occupants from the weather and predators. Like us, snowshoe hares will renovate the place to make them more comfortable for their young.
They do this by first placing materials like grass and even their own fur to create a soft surface on the nest. Mothers will then pad it down on the ground to even it out. Not only does this make the nest more comfortable, but it also helps keep the hares warm.
How Big Is A Snowshoe Hare’s Nest?
There is no average size of a snowshoe hare’s nest. Since these rodents build their nests based on their surroundings, how big the shelter will be is out of their hands, and instead, based on whatever is available.
The size of depressions and logs can vary widely from a small hole to several feet wide. Since snowshoe hares are not very large, the nests probably do not need to be very large.
How Much Time Do Snowshoe Hares Spend In Their Nests?
While they put a lot of work into creating a comfortable environment, snowshoe hares do not live in their nests for long. Snowshoe hares use their nests mainly to raise their young. Most snowshoe hares can get by in most shelters, but they create the nest to be extra comfortable for their young.
Once their babies are born, though, they grow up quickly. Unlike many animals, who can take months or even a year before learning to walk, snowshoe hares can move almost as soon as they are born.
Within a few days, they can already keep up with their mothers outside of the nest. Once the young snowshoe hares begin roaming around, moving day is just around the corner as the mother will take them to a new location.
A few days after giving birth, the young hares are already scattering around. They can be gone for several hours at a time, gathering back at the nest only to nurse with their mother. The nursing process lasts around ten minutes and then the young usually leave again.
Once they are weaned off milk, which usually takes a month, the mother and her babies leave the nest permanently.
Do Snowshoe Hares Come Back To Their Nests If Disturbed?
Not necessarily. Snowshoe hares have many predators and often find themselves in the predator’s hungry stare. To avoid getting caught they have many different tricks.
One of the most valuable adaptations these hares have is their fur, with changes color depending on the season. A snowshoe hare’s fur acts as natural camouflage and allows them to hide from predators. If a predator is nearby, its first instinct is to freeze in place rather than run to its nest, as this allows them to blend into the environment.
Even when they do make a run for it, a snowshoe hare’s goal isn’t necessarily towards returning to the nest but finding anywhere that can provide cover.
Will Snowshoe Hares Create Nests If They Have No Babies?
No, snowshoe hares do generally not create nests for themselves. They only do so when they have a litter of babies. Their nests are used for nursing and protecting newborn hares from the environment, but adult snowshoe hares do not need them to survive.
Instead of staying in a nest, full-grown snowshoe hares will sleep wherever there is room for them. Their resting areas can include ditches, bushes, or hollowed-out logs. As long as the shelter can offer a hiding place from predators, it is enough for our clever friends.
Where Do Snowshoe Hares Make Their Nests?
As with humans, snowshoe hares like making their homes in places with plenty of resources available; their favorite nesting places are in the boreal forests for several reasons.
One is that they have easy access to food since snowshoe hares primarily eat leaves, ferns, and other greens. The forest floor offers plenty of that plant life and is like a buffet.
But just as the forest provides them with food, it also prevents our furry friends from becoming food. Snowshoe hares have no shortage of predators, such as bobcats, lynxes, foxes, and coyotes, so they need plenty of hiding places. The forest provides them with small, hard-to-reach spots that they can use to hide from bigger predators.
Among these options are:
- Under bushes
- Under trees
- Inside Logs
In the forests, there are hundreds of hiding places just like this. Snowshoe hares will find a place like that and rest there throughout the day, only going out at night.
Snowshoe hares do not tend to live near the water since these places tend to have lots of animals nearby. Instead, they prefer isolated parts of the woods with fewer animals.
While they avoid living near the water, they aren’t afraid of it and are known to be strong swimmers. If they are trying to get away from predators, they are capable of jumping into lakes to try and get away from them.
Do Snowshoe Hares Dig Burrows?
Unlike rabbits, snowshoe hares do not live in burrows. Our long-eared friends are not built for intense digging the same way moles and gophers are, so creating a burrow is out of the question.
That being said, one of the snowshoe hare’s favorite shelters is depressions in the ground. These holes in the ground are large enough to fit a hare when resting.
The difference between these shelters is that snowshoe hares do not create them, themselves, but find natural depressions in the ground in the wilderness. Being natural formations also means they are not quite as extensive or protective as a burrow, though they are enough to protect their occupants from the elements.
How Many Snowshoe Hares Live In A Nest?
The old saying of “breeding like bunnies” rings through to snowshoe hares just as much as it does to rabbits. Since the nests are made for raising the litter, it needs to be large enough to accommodate the mother and the entire litter. The litters of these hares can range in size, anywhere from one to eight newborns.
Although they can also have multiple litters in a year, the mother hare and her children usually do not stay in a nest long enough to reach the same nest. By then, she would have moved to another location. So that means it is rare for more than ten hares to be in a single nest.
Author: Quade Ong
Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!