ODNR reintroducing snowshoe hares in Ohio

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AKRON – An additional 28 snowshoe hares were released recently in Ashtabula County as part of a continuing effort by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to re-establish the species in the state.

Hares disappeared. ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists released the hares at an area along the Geauga-Ashtabula County line.

Snowshoe hares disappeared from Ohio some time in the early 1900s and several attempts to reintroduce the hares in the 1950s were unsuccessful.

In 2000, the ODNR Division of Wildlife began re-establishing snowshoe hares in northeast Ohio by trapping and relocating them from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In 2001. Last year, 96 Michigan hares were released in Ohio. The snowshoe hare’s hind feet, up to 7 inches long, contain webbing between the toes. These features enable the hare to stay on top of deep snow, leap up to 10 feet and dart about at speeds up to 27 miles per hour.

The snowshoe hare gets its name from these long hind feet.

“These are important skills for evading predators since the hares are a favorite meal of foxes, raptors and a variety of other predators,” said state wildlife biologist Dave Scott who heads up the state’s snowshoe hare reintroduction program.

Encouraging news. Although some of the transplanted hares have fallen victim to predators, Scott said he is encouraged by evidence the hares are reproducing.

Toe tags on the hares help biologists track the animals’ habitat uses and survival rates. State wildlife biologists have observed tracks of snowshoe hares in this winter’s snowfall.

“That’s a good sign that the hare is at least holding its own in its new territory,” Scott said.

What are hares? While they can be referred to as bunnies, hares are definitely different from the familiar cottontail rabbit. Hares are larger than rabbits.

Snowshoe hares are also known as a varying hare because their brown fur turns white in the winter so they can blend into its snowy surroundings.

Due to their need for a specific habitat, the hares are only being released in the northeast corner of Ohio.

Funding. The snowshoe hare reintroduction program is funded through contributions to the Ohio Wildlife Diversity Income Tax Checkoff Program and through sales of wildlife conservation license plates.

Checking the appropriate boxes on line 17 on the state’s IT-1040 EZ form or line 25 on the IT-1040 form not only helps restoration efforts for snowshoe hares, but also for projects involving trumpeter swans, ospreys and peregrine falcons.

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