Snowshoe Hare Kits
Last week, in the midst of our quest to add beauty to the homestead, Steve backed the bush hog under a clump of wild apple, pine, spruce and black cherry trees. Ava and Zoey followed their noses to a young porcupine two days earlier, and Zoey came out with quills in her nose, lip and mouth. We got them out but don’t think ZoMonster knows what happened since it was dark, and that she’ll do it again. We needed to clean out the area to discourage the porcupine from sticking around. We weren’t expecting snowshoe hare kits.
I stood by, watching for the porcupine. Steve motioned like a one-armed windmill, pointing in the direction of the pond. “There’s a fuzzy lump running over there,” he shouted over the bush hog and tractor. A moment later another fuzzy lump ran toward the fire pit. Snowshoe hare kits!I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about snowshoe hares, and thinking their nest was destroyed, I scooped them up to keep them safe. “Rob,” he said, “you can’t keep wild bunnies. It was like he’d never met me… I called our warden to get permission to keep the little cuties to be sure they were eating and drinking on their own, and to figure out where we’d let them go. They couldn’t go back to the clump of trees, the underbrush was nearly decimated, and they needed protection from Zoey. If Ava found them she’d give them a proper bath before gently lugging them to me. Zoey would think “squeaky toy!” and it wouldn’t end well.
If You Care, Leave Them There
They spent the night nestled in straw in a cage in the shed, food and water beside them. Maybe we’d take them up on Democrat Ridge. With eyes open, fully furred, and able to hop, they’d be fine without their mother. They must have been close to leaving the nest, I thought. I was wrong.
A little research clued me in. Snowshoe hares are born fully furred, eyes open and able to hop unlike the naked and helpless rabbits I know well. Their proper name as babies is leveret. I’ll stick to kit. They’re born in a “nest” but then separate and remain nearby, a method of staying safe. They come back together when the mother returns to nurse them.
What had I done? I’d picked up and snuggled these nearly newborn hares. I couldn’t release them somewhere else, they need their mother. Ignorance usually isn’t bliss.
In the morning I dragged brush into the clump, took the hares back, and I let them go. Had I completely screwed this up and condemned them to death by dehydration? Long story short, they’re fine. I saw the snowshoe hare kits with their momma this morning, at the edge of the grass. I sat down to watch them until eventually the littles hopped separately back to the clump and momma went back to the woods. She’ll stay away from them until she returns to nurse them tonight.
Ava and Zoey are staying away. They pass the clump of trees on their way to see if there’s anything in the live trap (a skunk we were unaware of on Friday morning, thankfully found by Steve at 4 am, before he took the dogs out). “Stay out of there” is enough to keep them away. The hares should leave their clump when they’re about a month old so we’ll be keeping an eye on the dogs over there for a few more weeks. Living with wildlife is never dull, especially when they’re as cute as snowshoe hare kits.