Mountain Hare (lepus timidus)

The Mountain Hare is also known as the Blue, Tundra, Variable, White, Alpine and Hare, the Arctic hare was also included in the list but is now recognised as a subspecies as some argue should be the Irish Hare. It is an animal adapted to polar, sub polar and mountain habitats, the main adaptation being the change in fur colour from a mainly brown colour in the summer months to winter fur for camouflage from predators in the winter. The mountain hare is the UK’s only native hare having been present since the last ice age.


The mountain hare is a successful and widespread species with the main populations being in Sweden, Finland and across to Eastern Siberia and even Hokkaido in Japan but is can also be found in much smaller numbers in Alpine areas in Europe as well as mountain areas in Ireland, Poland and the UK. In the UK it has been introduced to the Northern Scottish Islands of Shetland and Faroe. There is some competition between the European Hare and the Mountain Hare in Northern Scandinavia, the European hare is larger and can drive out populations of mountain hares but the mountain hare is better adapted to survival in the inland snow areas whereas in the coastal areas its white winter coat is less useful as the snow does remain long.


The mountain hare varies its diet depending on region and what food sources are available, in areas with more snow the Hares will live on bark and small twigs, in more temperate areas like in the UK the hares will feed on grass which is their preferred food choice, in fact the mountain hares will choose to eat grass if its available even more than rabbits living in the same areas.

In Scotland the Hares are preyed upon by Golden Eagles especially if the snow melts suddenly and the hare is left to be easily spotted among the brown heather in its white winter coat.