Snowshoe hare

During the summer in Wisconsin, a snowshoe hare is an unremarkable shade of brown. But as winter approaches, the hare grows new white fur to match the snow, making it nearly invisible to predators … unless the snow fails to arrive.

It’s a situation that’s happening more often as Wisconsin’s winters become shorter and drier.

Zuckerberg: “Snowshoe hares are increasingly mismatched with the background. Because of that, they are becoming more susceptible to predators.”

Benjamin Zuckerberg is with the University of Wisconsin. He and his colleague Jonathan Pauli found that as the climate has warmed, hares in more southern areas have become easy prey and have begun to disappear.

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As a result, Pauli says the hare’s range in Wisconsin is shifting north, and that is affecting other animals in the area.

Pauli: “Snowshoe hares really sit at the center of these communities in terms of being important prey species, important competitors, and therefore the loss of these species from these systems really has important rippling effects for other species, like porcupines and grouse and fishers and bobcats, other northern forest species.”

In other words, a mismatched coat can change an entire ecosystem.

Reporting credit: Mark Knapp/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Samantha Harrington

Samantha Harrington, Associate Editor of Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer, with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. "Sam" is especially interested in sharing...