We know the snowshoe hare population is at the peak of its seven-year cycle, so naturally, we’re seeing lots of hare sign:
well-worn trails and scat…
nibbled twigs just above the snow line.
But here’s something I haven’t noticed before in all my years of nature-viewing in Alaska:
I’m going to call them “forms.”
Unlike rabbits, hares don’t live and give birth in burrows. Instead, they use a shallow depression or bed of grass, often tucked into brush or otherwise hidden. These depressions are called “forms.” I’m seeing lots of depressions in the snow around here.
I wondered if maybe the hares were digging down for food, but closer inspection shows no nibbling or even anything worth nibbling on. My guess is that these are places where hares hunker down for a time; snow is a good insulator, and I’ve read that ptarmigan will burrow into snow for warmth on a cold night, so why wouldn’t a hare? The forms that I’m seeing aren’t hidden at all, but are out in the open. I also never see hares using them, so I guess they use them at night when they blend with the snow and can’t be seen by owls and other predators.
I think it’s strange that I can see the evidence of so much activity and yet almost never see the creatures that leave the evidence. Maybe the Spiderwick Chronicles aren’t really fiction, after all!