CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -In September Harvey Webster, Chief Wildlife Officer with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH), took me by the exhibit of five white shoe hares.
At the time, they just looked like brown rabbits. (Let’s be clear there are several difference between hares and rabbits)
Webster told me, we’ll come back to these in a couple months when they’ve made their change.
For this week’s Natural Cleveland it was time for the snow shoe hare to shine, or hide as it were.
From a brown coat just three months ago, the hares are now snowy white.
“It’s a cool camouflage strategy,” Webster said as flakes fell around us. “They’re actually replacing the hair. They actually go from brown to white over the fall. And just about now, just after Thanksgiving, is when they are all white.”
While you have probably seen many rabbits in your backyard garden, unfortunately you haven’t seen a white shoe hare.
“They were regionally extinct probably back in the 1930′s,” Webster said. “Habitat loss was a big factor in that. They like shrub swamps and pine forests and those habitats have been diminished.”
Webster said the Ohio Division of Wildlife has tried in the past the reintroduce the species into Northeast Ohio by bringing hares from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Ohio but the program hasn’t worked.
“We think that because we have so many coyotes in Ohio now that, that may have been a been a real drag in trying to get them established," Webster said.
CMHN is one of the only museums or zoo’s in the state with a collection of the hares.
What’s crawling in your house? Prowling in your backyard? What am I seeing through my backyard telescope? Did I really just see a bald eagle during my drive home? Are coyotes dangerous? Experts from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History join us to set the record straight on Cleveland Natural – helping you better understand Northeast Ohio nature and providing tips on how to best share our region with our wild neighbors. Explore the wonders of science and nature at cmnh.org.