Canada has five main rabbit and hare species, and as spring arrives, you will almost be sure to see at least one of the fluffy creatures bounding through an open field near you.
Though two variations stick to the far north—where their thick fur and insulated feet protect them from harsh winter weather—the long-eared, cotton-tailed mammals are most commonly seen springing across nearby meadows and fields, hiding under shrubs and thickets, and making your barn their home for the season.
Surely you will have no problem spotting North America’s most common rabbit, the Eastern cottontail, but here are some guidelines to help identify the lesser seen varieties.
Also known as a Prairie hare, the white-tailed jackrabbit prefers open, dry fields of the Southern Prairies and Okanagan Valley. While the Arctic hare is the largest of Canada's rabbits, the white-tailed jackrabbit appears taller with distinctive long, black-tipped ears.
Canada's true snow bunny is the Arctic hare, the nation's only polar rabbit and the largest of all rabbit species found in Canada. Naturally camouflaging from brown-grey in the summer to a thick coat of stark white in the winter, the hares thrive in polar and mountainous regions of the Canadian Arctic, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Mountain cottontail is a small rabbit that is mostly identifiable by its short, rounded, and black-tipped ears that accompany a white-grey puffy tail and long hind legs. Also named Nuttall's cottontail, this species occupies the dry plains of Canada and the United States and is typically seen throughout Southern Alberta, Saskakatchewan, the Okanagan and Silkameen valleys, and as far south as Arizona and New Mexico.
The Eastern cottontail is extremely prevalent in Canada, and is one of the most common rabbit species in North America. In our home and native land, the relatively small rabbits prefer open woodlands, meadows, and shrubby areas of southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. These bunnies are red-brown in summer but turn more grey-brown in winter, with long ears and a short, fluffy white tail.
With wide hind feet and a tail that leaves tracks similar to a snowshoe, it is no question how this hare—sometimes referred to as the snowshoe rabbit or varying hare—got its name. Equipped with fur that changes from brown to white with the seasons and tufts that grow on the soles of their large feet, the rabbits are able to comfortably bound through freezing winter temperatures, which is where they prefer to live. In Alberta and British Columbia, snowshoes often occupy regenerating forests of aspen or pine, where they can live among the young shrubs.