Poor snowshoe hares still think they’re camouflaged even when they’re really not
Poor snowshoe hares. Every other creature in the forest wants to eat them. As NPR reports, “lynx, foxes, coyotes, raptors, birds of prey” — even red squirrels, which eat the babies — are after the hares.
The hares have basically one strategy for not getting eaten: They blend in with their surroundings. When the days get longer in the spring, they turn brown. When the days get shorter in the fall, they turn white to match the snow. It doesn’t matter if there’s actually snow on the ground or not — the hares turn white. As you’d guess, this is kiiiind of a problem. Alex Kumar, a biology grad student who studies the hares, told NPR:
“And they really think that they’re camouflaged,” Kumar says. “They act like we can’t see them. And it’s pretty embarrassing for the hare.”
Kumar calls this “mismatch,” and it’s becoming more of a concern with climate change.
“If the hares are consistently molting at the same time, year after year, and the snowfall comes later and melts earlier, there’s going to be more and more times when hares are mismatched,” he says.
Which means more will get eaten, unless adaption kicks in — fast.