Mountain Hare, Arctic Hare
IUCN: LC; Be (III); EUHD (V); RDBUkr: Рідкісні
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
There are currently 15 recognized subspecies: Lepus timidus ainu, L. t. begitschevi, L. t. gichiganus, L. t. hibernicus, L. t. kamtschaticus, L. t. kolymensis, L. t. kozhevnikovi, L. t. lugubris, L. t. mordeni, L. t. orii, L. t. scoticus, L. t. sibiricorum, L. t. timidus, L. t. transbaicalicus, and L. t. varronis (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).
The geographic distribution of L. timidus extends from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the eastern edge of Poland and Scandinavia (Flux and Angermann 1990). The northern most populations can be found at 75°N in Russia and Scandinavia, extending south to 40-50°N (Flux and Angermann 1990). Isolated populations are located in Hokkaido (Japan), Ireland, the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin, Scotland (Flux and Angermann 1990), and the Alps regions of Austria, Italy, Germany, France, Slovenia, and Switzerland (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999). Introduced populations can be found in England, the Faeroes (Denmark), several Scottish islands (Flux and Angermann 1990). On Spitsbergen Island, introduced populations failed to persist (Flux and Angermann 1990).
L. timidus is an abundant species within its range (Flux and Angermann 1990). Populations appear to be stable across much of its geographic distribution, with fluctuations occurring in northern Europe and possible declines in the Alps (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999). Population declines have been observed in Russia and in the extreme, southern portions of Sweden, L. timidus has disappeared entirely (Thulin 2003). L. timidus is found at low densities in tundra areas (Angerbjorn pers. comm.). In Northern Ireland, historical game bag records indicate that there has been a substantial decline in hare abundance (Dingerkus and Montgomery 2002). Populations of L. timidus are subject to periodic crashes where the cause is potentially parasitism, predation, or starvation (Angerbjorn and Flux 1995).
L. timidus inhabits tundra and taiga, particularly pine, birch, and juniper (Flux and Angermann 1990). Moors and bogland are the preferred habitats for this species in Ireland and Scotland (Flux and Angermann 1990). However, L. timidus hibernicus will also utilize cultivated land, rich agricultural area, in Ireland (Thulin 2003). L. timidus occupies lowland woodlands of open steppe in southern Russia along with reed belts around lakes (Flux and Angermann 1990). In Mongolia, it occurs in forests located on the Altai, Hingan, Hentei, Hovsgol, and Hangai mountain ranges (Mallon 1985).
The diet of L. timdus varies in relation to the type of habitat it occupies (Flux and Angermann 1990). Calluna (heather) constitutes the bulk of the diet in Scotland, while birch, juniper, poplar, willow, and Vaccinium are selected in Europe (Flux and Angermann 1990). If present, L. timidus will consume palatable grasses and clovers (Flux and Angermann 1990).
L. timidus is a nocturnal species that will increase daytime activity during summer months (Flux and Angermann 1990). Home range for this species ranges according to locality (Flux and Angermann 1990). In Scotland, home ranges as small as 10 ha have been observed, while in Finland it was reported that home ranges could be as large as 305 ha (Flux and Angermann 1990).
In areas where L. timidus and L. europaeus coexist, L. timidus will retreat to areas of higher elevation (Thulin 2003). The reason for this is believed to be competitive exclusion, L. timidus yields habitat to L. europaeus (Thulin 2003).
Litter size of L. timidus is variable (two to six) according to the number of litters and the latitude (Angerbjorn pers. comm.). Gestation time is between 47-55 days (Angerbjorn pers. comm.). The breeding season is February to August (Macdonald and Barrett 1993). L. timidus reaches maturity at one year of age. Longevity for L. timidus is nine years (Macdonald and Barrett 1993). Natural mortality for juveniles is 80%, while adult mortality is 58% (Macdonald and Barrett 1993). Total length of this species is 45.7-61.0 cm (Macdonald and Barrett 1993).
L. t. hibernicus is the only endemic hare of Ireland (Reid and Montgomery 2007). Contrary to other mountain hare populations, this subspecies "occurs at all altitudes and can be found in most habitats throughout Ireland" (Reid and Montgomery 2007). L. t. hibernicus typically forages on grasses (Reid and Montgomery 2007).