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Mountain Hare Facts | Switzerland Wildlife Guide

Like the ptarmigan, the mountain hare also thrives in a cold, harsh climate. Their fur color changes from mixed brown tones in the summer to pure white in the winter, with fur “socks” extending out above the feet to prevent sinking into the snow. Mountain hares have three molting periods. In the first, from June to September, the coat changes from brown to a slightly different brown. This coat color will make the hares hard to see on your visit. What helps the hares survive changing temperatures is the three types of fur they have: underfur (about 15 mm long); pile hair (about 25 mm long); and guard hairs (about 40 mm long). The color changes are due to changes in the color of the pile hair. Interesting to note, males are smaller than females.

Mountain hares have a special survival trick. Most hares give birth for the first time in the season in the early summer; but, before the young arrive, the mother will mate again! The strategy is called superfetation and allows mothers to give birth to more babies in the short season before the snows set in. Another survival trick is “hooking.” Before a hare rests in its “form” (a small indentation in the ground or snow), it will jump to the side of where it made tracks to confuse predators. Sometimes this will be done repeatedly.

Like the ptarmigan, mountain hares suffer from loss of habitat and vegetation due to climate change. Swiss universities and global organizations follow the situation carefully. One primary area of concern is that groups of mountain hares will find themselves more isolated from each other, leading to genetic impoverishment. Their hope is to help identify ways to keep different groups interconnected to allow the species to survive and hopefully thrive.

While elusive, you may still be lucky enough to see mountain hares while in Swiss National Park.
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