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606 illustration

Mountain hare

Lepus timidus

The mountain hare has a body length of up to 65 centimetres. The fur is brownish grey in summer and pure white in winter, except for black ear tips, to provide camouflage in snow. Mountain hares have three types of fur: underfur, pile hair and guard hairs. It leaves broad tracks and can splay its toes to form a showshoe. The front footprints are between 5 and 7 centimetres long, and the hind footprints 7 to 10 centimetres. When running, the hare uses its powerful hind legs to propel itself forward.

In Belarus, mountain hares are common in the north and rather rare in Brest, Grodno and Gomel oblasts. Unlike the European hare, the mountain hare is a forest animal. It avoids large open spaces, preferring young aspen woods and mixed forests.

To avoid detection, mountain hares will jump to the side of their tracks before resting. They sometimes take over the burrows of other animals, and sometimes dig their own, using their large paws. However, only the young spend any time inside the burrows. Mountain hares are active in the evenings and at night, and during the day rest in small depressions called "forms". The hares feed on herbaceous plants in summer, and on bark or twigs in winter. The female has two litters in the summer. The spring breeding season is accompanied by fights for supremacy among males. The normal litter size is between one and six young, which are born with their eyes open and covered in fur. The young sit motionless in the grass to avoid leaving traces and the mother comes to feed them once or twice a night. Females feed their own litter and the young of other females. Ten days after birth the young begin to eat grass but are not weaned until they are 20 to 30 days old.

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