During these picturesque days of winter (to which my camera phone cannot do justice), hares can be found in Edmonton, Alberta–in empty lots, snow-covered green spaces, on roads, and in yards.
The other day, I was pulling into my parking spot at 3:35 p.m.
Outside, it had clouded over and dusk settled in at half past three.
In my headlights, this little guy looked like a mound of snow except for the symmetrically set eyes, which gave him away. I did not pull in all the way and managed to get a few pictures in the failing light without scaring him (her?).
I crept the car forward and stopped short of the end of the stall. Only when I turned off the engine did the hare jump, but I got the second picture before he bounded off.
White-tailed jackrabbits in Edmonton
White-tailed jackrabbits thrive in Edmonton’s urban areas. The city acts as a “predator shadow.” Predators do not do as well within the city. There are also many places with good escape routes for the hares to hide. (Source: Chasing rabbits: Edmonton hares multiplying like rabbits, Wallis Snowdon, CBC News Edmonton, Nov. 21, 2016.)
Clouds enshrouded the day in dusk and snow fell softly.
The white-tailed jackrabbit is also known as the Prairie hare and prefers open, dry fields. “While the Arctic hare is the largest of Canada’s rabbits, the white-tailed jackrabbit appears taller with distinctive long, black-tipped ears.” (Source: How to identify Canada’s 5 rabbit and hare species, Jackie Campbell, Cottage Life.)
Bret drove back to the city in the dusk. Winter tightened its stranglehold. As he approached the acreage, the temperature fell. His back windows frosted over on the inside despite the heater blowing on full.
Arctic hares in Edmonton
An arctic hare was spotted in the city on Nov. 16, 2013 after a heavy snowfall. Like the jackrabbit, the animal turns white in winter to increase its camouflage. (Source: Baby hares may be cute, but don’t touch: Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton, Otiena Ellwan, Edmonton Sun, Dec. 26, 2016.)
What’s the difference between rabbits and hares?
Hares have longer hind legs than rabbits and are built for speed, which is critical for their survival. They rarely use burrows or caves.
The snowshoe hare is a symbol of Canada and is predominant in the Rocky Mountains. Snowshoe hares are the main food source for many predators in Alberta. Their defences are lightning speed, sharp wits, rapid reproduction, and ability to survive on grasses.
The hares change colour with the seasons, from rusty brown in the summer to white in the winter, with black ear tips. The hares’ fur colour change does not always align with nature. An early snowfall leaves brown hares without natural camouflage. Similarly, an early spring makes it difficult for white bunnies to remain inconspicuous.
Similar species include the jackrabbit, which predominates on the Prairies. The name is a shortened version of “jack-ass rabbit,” so named for its donkey ears.
Hares and rabbits are a common sight in Edmonton on lawns and in the river valley park system.
(Source: Alberta Travel, Hares and Rabbits.)
He turned and walked through the snow to his car, started it up, and waited for the heat. As he looked out of his window, only the double line of his own tracks marked the layer of pristine snow leading to the gravestone in the deepening dusk.
Some of my own encounters with hares in Edmonton’s residential areas were destined to end up in Beyond the Precipice, but the scenes in which the hares appeared were later removed because they did not advance the plot.
Below is my (finally) completed collection of hare photos in all four seasons. The non-winter colours are brown and grey.
Quotes are from Beyond the Precipice, a story of grief, loss, discovery, and redemption.