Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Bruce Bonebrake
Photo Copyright Bruce Bonebrake

The snowshoe hare, Lepus americanus, can reach 14 inches in length and weigh up to four pounds, with ears three to four inches long. In summer, the upper parts are dark brown and the underparts, behind the front legs, whitish. The tail is brownish on top and dusky beneath. In winter, its pelage is all white with a black eye ring.

In Utah, this species is limited to coniferous forests, interspersed with thickets of aspen, willow, and alder in the higher mountainous areas.

In winter, food consists of bark; twigs of alder, aspen, willow and other deciduous trees and shrubs; and on shoots of young evergreens. In summer food consists of a variety of tender green plants.

Generally two to four young are born in each of two or three litters from April to August. No nest is built as the hares are born furred and with open eyes.

Snowshoe hares occur in coniferous forests and can be distinguished by their white fur in winter, relatively large hind feet, shorter ears, and their smaller size, which seldom exceeds 4 pounds. In comparison, the white-tailed jackrabbit is also white in winter, but is larger, has longer ears, and occurs in high desert, open foothills, and valleys. White-tailed jackrabbits retain some dark fur on the head, whereas snowshoe hares turn completely white except for some dark fur on the ear tips. Both are active mostly at night.


  • Text modified from: Rawley, E. V., W. J. Bailey, D. L. Mitchell, J. Roberson, and J. Leatham. 1996. Utah upland game. Publication number 63-12. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City.