Mountain hare Lepus timidus

An iconic upland species, mountain hares are famed for their camouflage. In summer, their coat is a grey-brown colour with a tinge of blue, making them hard to spot against the typical backdrop of heather moorland. In winter, they change to almost completely white to camouflage with snow – only their ear tips stay black.

Mountain hares are larger than rabbits, but smaller than brown hares and have shorter ears.

Behaviour

Hares will graze on vegetation and nibble bark from young trees and bushes. They shelter in a ‘form’ – a shallow depression in the ground or heather – but when disturbed they can be seen bounding across the moors using their powerful hind legs to propel them forwards, often in a zigzag pattern.

Size

Length: 60cm

Weight: 4kg

Average lifespan: 4 years

Status

Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Distribution

Mountain hares are found from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia with isolated populations in the Alps and in Great Britain and Ireland.

When to see

Jan – Dec

They are at their most visible in spring, when the snow has melted but the hares are still white.

Facts

Unlike the brown hare, which is thought to have been introduced by the Celts during the Iron Age, the mountain hare is native to Britain. However, it is only native to the Scottish Highlands and was translocated elsewhere.

Common name

Mountain hare

Species name

Lepus timidus

IUCN Red List status

Least Concern

When to see in Scotland

Jan – Dec

They are at their most visible in spring, when the snow has melted but the hares are still white.

Where to see in Scotland

The Highlands, including the Trust’s Ben Mor Coigach reserve and the Isle of Eigg.

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