Parental Care and Adult Aggression toward Juvenile Snowshoe Hares


  • R.P. Graf
  • A.R.E. Sinclair



Animal behaviour, Hares, Yukon


The early life of the snowshoe hare was studied through observations and experiments involving penned and wild hares. Parental care was limited to the adult female. Her care extended only to lactation and possibly to some guarding of her offspring. The leverets gathered at the birth/nursing site 1-2 hours after sunset and suckled immediately upon the arrival of the female for 2-5 minutes. The leverets born in the pens gained 17.1 g per day for the first 60 days of life. Weaned juveniles caught in the wild were introduced into a pen containing resident adults and juveniles. All 30 introduced juveniles were involved in interactions with residents, both adults and juveniles. The introduced juveniles were involved in and were the losers in more antagonistic interactions than were resident juveniles. Similar adult/juvenile and juvenile/juvenile interactions were observed in an unmanipulated wild population of hares, although the residential status of many of the participants was unknown. We concluded that aggression from resident adults and juveniles could lead to spacing behaviour and might therefore affect juvenile recruitment.

Key words: Lepus americanus, snowshoe hare, spacing behaviour, dispersal, aggression, lactation