Latin name: Lepus timidus
Gaelic name: Geàrr; maigheach bhàn
Length: 46 - 65cm Weight: 2 – 3kg
Where: Mountains and moorland, for example the hilltop moorlands between the Tay and the Earn; Glen Falloch hills; Ben Vorlich
When: All year round
Spot a mountain hare on a snowy hillside and you get a taste of what Scotland must have been like just after the last Ice Age. These beautiful creatures are perfectly adapted to the Arctic landscape.
Mountain hares’ coats change with the seasons to blend in with the landscape – grey brown in summer, grizzled grey-blue in spring and autumn, and pure white in winter. By doing this they hope to escape detection by their predators. Sometimes they change out of sync with the snow melt, and you will see a white hare sitting happily among the green shoots of heather, seemingly unaware of its malfunctioning camouflage! In addition to their changing coats their footwear is also adapted to an Arctic existence. They have broad, thickly furred feet that act like snow shoes to help them cross snowfields without sinking in to the deep drifts.
Undisturbed, the hares spend most of their day hunkered down in shallow depressions called forms, coming out mostly at dawn and dusk to graze on grass or heather. But if you startle one watch which way it runs –most head straight uphill. This is another trick to avoid the hares’ main predator, the golden eagle, which prefers to be able to attack its prey from above.
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