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The snowshoe hare is a type of hare which lives in North America. The animal is named for its famously large feet, which are specially adapted to help it navigate in the snow. Unlike animals with small feet, the snowshoe hare can walk on the snow without breaking through it, exactly like a person in snowshoes. Snowshoe hares can be found in many parts of North America, especially regions with high altitudes.
The snowshoe hare may also be referred to as the varying hare, because the animal changes coats seasonally. In the summer, the snowshoe hare has a white underbelly and a brown upper body, designed to help it blend in with the plants in the meadows it favors. In the winter, the snowshoe hare turns pure white with black-tipped ears, which helps it blend in with the snow.
Snowshoe hares are medium sized and heavily furred, with their feet especially being covered in a thick coat of fur which helps distribute their weight on the snow. They tend to live alone, although they may feed in small groups, and they do not hibernate, subsisting on bark, twigs, and whatever foliage they can find during the winter months.
Like other hares, snowshoe hares have bodies which are built for jumping, with extremely powerful rear legs. They also have long ears when compared to rabbits, and their young are born fully furred with their eyes open. This means that the young hares can quickly fend for themselves, unlike baby rabbits, who are helpless. Hares also give birth above ground in flattened nests, rather than in burrows.
This North American hare is quite famous because of its distinctive adaptations which help it to cope with its environment. They are often found in the wild, making them a popular game animal for some hunters, and some wildlife parks and zoos also maintain a small snowshoe hare population, for people who are interested in seeing these animals in closeup.
Like some other North American animals which have adapted to cope with specific seasonal changes, the snowshoe hare is under threat as a result of global warming, and it also experiences habitat pressure. Some snowshoe hare populations are trapped on islands of wild space in the United States, which means that they cannot migrate north to find a habitat which is more suitable for them and to increase their genetic diversity by meeting other snowshoe hares.