The Challenge - Snowshoe Hare style

On the evening of 6 June I counted two Snowshoe Hares on the Bolton Road Hare transect, but I couldn't count this Hare - it was south of the transect - almost where the gravel road named "Kyle Road" meets the equally narrow but paved "Branch Road".

This Hare saw me and hesitated, then dashed right in front as if he were on a suicide mission. I didn't brake too hard for fear of spinning out on the gravel, so I was surprised to feel no bump. A split second later, out of the corner of my eye I saw him spin around beside the van, and when I glanced in the rear view mirror there he was sitting in the middle of the road behind me, looking as saucy as a jaybird. It seemed to me that he was challenging me to a chase, or perhaps watching to see the van lose control and slide into the ditch - like others had before?

Hares are intelligent, and this is a good year for green growing things, and for creatures that eat green growing things. Hare populations are on an upswing, but not high yet, so life must be pretty good - even time for sports, like challenging cars!


We have been recording Snowshoe Hare observations along the southern end of Bolton Road (formerly Cristman Road) in Grenville County, Ontario, since the early '90's, and have a NatureJournal data sheet for those who regularly drive Bolton Road south. It explains the 10 - 11 year cycle in Hares, its relationship to the sun spot cycle, and is set up with tick boxes to record observations. The Hare cycle is the most spectacular multi-year pattern that occurs in Canada, but everyone is totally silent about it, as if it wasn't national news! Perhaps it happens over too long a period of time for commercial people to notice. It involves incredible abundances, spectacular population crashes, fascinating correlations with other phenomena - what more do they want!

Fred has written an article about ten year cycles in boreal wildlife. See Nonfibre Values .

I will send a stack of datasheets to anyone who is interested.


  1. My Dad, Lars Karstad, wrote in an e-mail: "Don’t forget about the relationship of the 10 year cycle with the cycle of lynx attacks on caribou calves in Newfoundland. When the hare population crashes and hares are hard to find, the lynx which have grown to a high population on plentiful hares are hungry; they begin to attack caribou. That was one of my most fascinating wildlife “disease” studies".

  2. Someone warned never to overestimate the literacy of the media, I think they should have added that it is impossible to underestimate their attention span...ergo the drama of 10yr cycles is bound to be lost. Our snowshoe "Rabbid" seems to have found a friend so there is bound to be a boom here!

  3. We have a domestic Rabbit buck who is at least ten years old, and has just fathered another litter. He spent a couple of winters running loose and hanging about the cages of the does, but he's been confined to a cage for the past few years. He and the does enjoy a diet of grass and wild herbs in the summer, and Apple & Buckthorn twigs and Cedar branches in the winter (not much commercial Rabbit chow) - and kitchen scraps all year long. I wonder whether he holds the record for Lagamorph lifespan. I haven't heard of any living beyond about 6 years.

  4. Animals challenging passing cars for social status is a topic that's hardly been studied in road ecology. And here's another instance: =====================================20 July 2008=====================================
    Canada: Ontario: Grenville County: Augusta: Branch Road, 1.1 km WSW South Branch. 31B/13, UTM 18TVE 436.3 618.3 44.80966N 75.71245W. TIME: 1000ca. HABITAT: near culvert/ditch in tall-grassy creekside roadside with gravel shoulders. OBSERVER: Aleta Karstad Schueler, Lorraine Leader. AKS 08 Jul 201000/a, Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) (Mammal). 1 adult, AOR. brown pelage, challenged passing vehicles. "Lorraine and I saw an oncoming vehicle slow for the Hare, which was crossing and re-crossing the road so that the vehicle had to slow to nearly a standstill. We slowed down as well, and after the oncoming vehicle resumed and passed by us, the Hare emerged from the roadside vegetation and dashed across in front of us, nearly getting hit. I think this Hare was playing the same tricks as the one I described in my weblog last summer, playing "Rabbit" like a game of "Chicken". I wonder whether there were other Hare spectators of this sport, and perhaps some betting. "


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