In mid-May, Dave and I spotted this beautiful snowshoe hare on the Interurban trail. SFU conservation biologist, John Reynolds, confirmed that this is the washingtonii subspecies of snowshoe hare. It’s a pacific northwest group that is genetically unique as it doesn’t change to a white coat in the winter. Historically, this hare was found in coastal Oregon, Washington and as far north as the Fraser Valley. Today, it has been extirpated from most of its former range in BC and is classified as a red-listed or endangered species. Apparently, there is a small breeding population at Burnaby Lake Park, and individuals have been spotted in low elevation forests in Belcarra, Mission and Chilliwack. Its preferred habitat is mixed deciduous/coniferous forests with a dense cover of bushes and small trees.
The snowshoe hare has similar colouring to the introduced Eastern Cottontail. You can tell them apart by looking at their ears – snowshoe hares’ ears have the outer margins lined with black and white fur. Snowshoe hares also have large back feet, which are furred underneath. Cottontails have bare toe pads and a characteristic large white fluffy tail! The sighting has been entered into the BC Conservation Data Centre database and the City of Burnaby staff have been notified.