Arctic hare makes incredible, record-making journey across Canadian North

Wild rabbits usually stick pretty close to home. But researchers have recorded the long-distance hop along of one particularly intrepid Arctic hare, which covered more than 388 kilometres across the Canadian Arctic.

A recent study in Ecology reported the seasonal travel habits of 25 Arctic hares around Canadian Forces Station Alert, which is at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. Scientists used satellite tracking collars to follow their movements.

Researchers wanted to look at the migration distances of pikas, rabbits and lagomorphs, better known as hares. They don’t typically exceed 10 kms, but the researchers were wowed by what they found.

The travels of one female Arctic hare – named BBYY – racked up 388 kilometres over 49 days in the fall of 2019 — the longest journey ever recorded for such a creature.

It really is quite remarkable.

The researchers consulted all documented cases for hares that travelled more than 10 km in natural conditions and they found infrequent cases of ones heading that far from home.

Going back to 1965, hares have been tracked hopping between 12 to 45 kms. The researchers didn’t include a mountain hare bread in captivity and released in 1995 for game stocking. It was found dead 200 kms away.

Little wonder the researchers from Université du Québec called the hares the “unsuspected long-distance travelers of the Far North.”

The findings by Sandra Lai, Émilie Desjardins and others reveals “unprecedented mobility capabilities” for this type of animal.

“More importantly, our observation has important implications for movement ecology and opens new avenues for understanding the functioning of the polar desert, one of the biomes most exposed to global warming,” the authors wrote.

Main photo: Arctic Net/vimeo

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