Snowshoe Hare and Canada Lynx Populations

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1 Snowshoe Hare and Canada Lynx Populations Ashley Knoblock Dr. Grossnickle Bio 171 Animal Biology Lab 2 December 1, 2014

2 Ashley Knoblock Dr. Grossnickle Bio 171 Lab 2 Snowshoe Hare and Canada Lynx Populations There was a time when scientists believed that future generations were going to be hit with the impact of climate change, but the last two decades have brought scientists to believe that global warming is happening now. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) states that recent decades have been the warmest in the last 1000 years. Human activity is the number one cause of climate change. Skeptical Science conducted a study of climate papers, revealing that ninety-seven percent of the authors agree that global climate change is happening because of human activities, and one-hundred percent of climate experts agree as well. Humans go on with their everyday lives, driving from place to place, burning fossil fuels, and factories and electric power plants are running twenty-four hours a day, polluting the air. Greenhouse gas emissions are skyrocketing, with carbon dioxide levels reaching four-hundred parts per million in the recent years (ACIA). The National Center s for Environmental Prediction s study reveals that sixty-six percent of the earth has warmed and only thirty-four percent has been colder. The consequences of human actions are affecting the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. Two species that are being affected by climate change resulting in a loss of snowpack are the Snowshoe hare and Canada lynx. The Snowshoe hare is a large rabbit with a thick, dense coat, long ears, and big, furry feet for moving through snow, hence the name snowshoe. Snowshoe hares have a seasonal-colored coat that is white in the winter and reddish-brown in the spring and summer. They also have

3 black-rimmed ears and dark brown eyes. They are located mostly in Canada, Northern United States, and found in some parts of the Southern United States in forests and mountain ranges, such as the Appalachians and the Rockies. The average lifespan of a snowshoe hare is about one year in the wild, but they can live up to about five years. They are herbivores so their diet consists of trees, shrubs, grasses, and plants. The hare also produces two kinds of pellets, soft and hard. During the day they have soft pellets that they will eat for nutrients, and during the night they have hard pellets. The snowshoe hare is prey for many predators and their line of defense lies in their speed, an adult can reach up to about twenty-seven miles per hour with ten feet covered in one bound, and their fur color, depending on the season, helps camouflage them from predators. Since they are a major target of prey, they reproduce rapidly. Females have litters about two to three times a year with anywhere from one to eight babies, or leverets, and their pregnancy only lasts approximately thirty-six days. ( Snowshoe Hare ESF Adirondack Ecological). The snowshoe hare population has been declining because of the loss of snowpack due to global climate change. The snowshoe hare s seasonal coat is timed by photoperiod, which depends on the length of day. Since the climate temperature is rising, winters are shortening, and it is causing a mismatch of the snowshoe hare s fur color and the surrounding environment. Animal biologists are seeing white snowshoe hare s with a snowless background. The hare depends on its fur to help camouflage it from prey, but now they are easier to spot during this time when their fur is the wrong color, leading to increases in predation. The leading problem with the decrease in population of snowshoe hares is that they are a major target of prey for many predators, but mostly being the endangered Canada lynx.

4 The Canada lynx is an endangered wild cat with a medium-sized body, long legs, large feet for maneuvering through snow, and a short, black-tipped tail. During the winter the Canada lynx has a long, thick grey coat with white tips, and during the summer a short, thin light brown coat. The long patches of fur on the face, and the thick, long ear tufts distinguish this breed. They are located in Alaska and Canada s forests, and also in the Northern United States in the Rocky Mountains and Cascades. The have been spotted in some states in the U.S., such as Utah, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but the Defenders of Wildlife state that the population status is not well known. About ninety-five percent of the Canada lynx s diet consists of the snowshoe hare ( Climate Change and the Canada Lynx Defenders of Wildlife ). They sometimes feed on mice, grouse, red squirrels, and other small mammals but they rely on their diet of the snowshoe hare for survival. The lynx is not very fast and relies on slyness to catch prey. Animal biologists estimate that for every one prey captured, the lynx missed ten ( Canada Lynx Big Cat Rescue). Canada lynx mate anywhere from January to February and the gestation period is about sixty to sixty-five days. The females give birth from one to four kits and this only happens once a year ( Canada Lynx Big Cat Rescue). Humans are a major threat to the Canada lynx due to trapping, taking away habitats, and killing snowshoe hares. Due to humans destruction of the earth, the Canada lynx may sadly become extinct if things do not change in our world. As of the year 2000, the Canada lynx has been listed as an endangered species ( Canada Lynx Feline Conservation). The Canada lynx relies on the snowshoe hare as its main food source and with the loss of snowpack, the snowshoe hare is caught more easily by the faster predators. The lynx feet are heavily padded which help them navigate through the snow more easily, giving them an advantage over the coyotes and bobcats when catching hares. As the length of time with snowpack decreases due to global climate change, not only do predators like

5 the coyotes and bobcats have an easier time catching the hares, but mountain lions are able to prey on the lynx more easily during snow-free periods. Animal biologists fear that by the end of the century the spruce and fir trees that lynx depend on for their habitats may disappear completely. Also with the warming air temperatures, the forests are drying out causing more severe wild fires that have doubled in size ( Climate Change and the Canada Lynx Defenders of Wildlife). There is still time to save this endangered species by taking action with preserving their habitats and the snowshoe hare habitats, being careful not to catch them in traps, and no illegally killing them which is sadly still happening. The actions of humans has caused a devastating effect on the earth. We are causing global warming and endangering species from burning fossil fuels, running factories and electrical processes, logging, and polluting the earth on a daily basis. Our actions have caused greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket, increasing carbon dioxide levels to a dangerous amount, leading to warming the earth. Not only the Snowshoe hare and Canada lynx, but many animals are being tragically affected by our selfish actions. The question is: what will it take for humans to realize the damage they are causing and work together to change it? And the truth is, if we do not change our ways soon, the earth will progressively continue to warm, the sea levels will continue to rise, length of winter will continue to shorten, and more species will become endangered and possibly even extinct.

6 Works Cited Canada Lynx. Big Cat Rescue. Big Cat Rescue Corporation, Web. 30 Oct Canada Lynx. Feline Conservation Federation. Feline Conservation Federation, Web. 30 Oct Climate Change and the Canada Lynx. Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife, Web. 30 Oct Cook, John. Skeptical Science Study Finds 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature. Skeptical Science. Skeptical Science, Web. 30 Oct Global Warming Impacts. Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. Union of Concerned Scientists, Web. 30 Oct Snowshoe Hare. ESF. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Web. 30 Oct Snowshoe Hare. National Geographic. National Geographic Society, Web. 30 Oct Snowshoe Hare. National Wildlife Federation. National Wildlife Federation, Web. 30 Oct Threats to Lynx. Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife, Web. 30 Oct (Information from Sadava, Chapter 1 PowerPoint was used: NCEP, ACIA, and Skeptical Science.)

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