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The Snowshoe Hare

My latest interest is in the smaller animals around here.  Winter snow tracking can help find the critters and I’ve started keeping my eye out for Marten tracks, which I’ve yet to find.  Today was a beautiful clear day running around 17 degrees when I started out on a snowshoe trek.  I’d heard from a hunter friend in October that he’d seen a lot of snowshoe hare tracks up Camp Creek, an area closed off in winter except to foot traffic.  Since most winter visitors up here are interested in snowmobiling, this is a quiet and steep hillside with no traffic.  Being a north facing slope, the forest service road had accumulated over 3′ of snow.  A recent snow storm left the snow soft and snowshoeing was a work-out.

Looking over the habitat in a summer photo from a viewpoint--'88 burn, some clear cutting, older douglas fir forests

Just as my friend said, I quickly saw a lot of snowshoe hare tracks.  What I really am interested in is lynx activity.  I’m not familiar with lynx, but I can recognize a cat track.  The snow being so soft, the large loping tracks I saw were difficult to identify, but appeared to be a lone coyote.

There were hare runs all over the place.  It was interesting to see how long the runs were, and how far out into open areas the hares ventured.  With the deep snow, areas under roots and limbs made for good cover.  This is a typical snowshoe hare habitat–fir and spruce forest.

full set of all four feet slows to go under a fir root

Sit down track

 

Back foot length

Track group size

Two years ago the Forest Service hired a contractor to look at snowshoe hare habitat in my valley.  The company was doing a vegetation study for snowshoe hare to see if this was good lynx habitat.  I don’t know if the results are out yet, but just down the road a few miles I can say for certain that there is good hare habitat with lots of hare.  Now, to see if I can find a lynx!

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