Just like you have a different coat for winter so does this animal that used to roam your backyard in Northeast Ohio

The white shoe hare is regionally extinct

Just like you have a different coat for winter so does this animal that used to roam your backyard in Northeast Ohio
The white shoe hare turns its coat white by winter to camouflage its self.

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.

Just like you have a different coat for winter so does this animal that used to roam your backyard

At the time, they just looked like brown rabbits. (Let’s be clear there are several difference between hares and rabbits)

In September the snow shoe hare is brown to blend in with summer and fall colors.
In September the snow shoe hare is brown to blend in with summer and fall colors. (Source: WOIO)

Webster told me, we’ll come back to these in a couple months when they’ve made their change.

By December the snow shoe hare has replaced the brown hair to white to blend in with snowy conditions.
By December the snow shoe hare has replaced the brown hair to white to blend in with snowy conditions. (Source: WOIO)

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.”

For Natural Cleveland today I give you the snowshoe hare. (Hares are not rabbits) As can see from September through...

Posted by Dan DeRoos Cleveland 19 on Thursday, December 6, 2018

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.

Editor's note: This content is part of a partnership between Cleveland 19 News and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Find more videos like this on Cleveland 19’s Roku and Amazon Fire apps.

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.

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