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Global Warming and the Snowshoe Hare

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
This snowshoe hare is a like a sitting duck for predators. Credit: L.S. Mills Research Photo

This snowshoe hare mismatched to its environment is a like a sitting duck for predators. Credit: L.S. Mills Research Photo

Unfortunately for the snowshoe hare, global warming is making it an easy target for predators.

In recent years, snowshoe hares have spent an increasing amount of time mismatched to their surroundings — either donning a white coat amidst a brown/green environment or a brown coat amidst a snowy white environment.

The saddest part about it is that the hares don’t realize they’re mismatched. They stay still, out in the open, assuming that their camouflage will keep them safe.

The hares moult their brown or white coats in the fall or spring in response to light. According to¬†Alex Kumar, a graduate student at the University of Montana who is studying this phenomenon in Missoula, Montana: “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.”

The big question for the snowshoe hare is whether it can adapt to climate change before going extinct.

For more info see: NPR.