Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve at the Boardwalk

This afternoon my daughter Susan and I walked around the Boardwalk and for a change we had it all to ourselves. Maybe that's because the temperature was -20 and there was a stiff breeze. Regardless, tracks in the snow showed that others had braved the path before us. And there were other stories written in the snow. We saw numerous tracks of snowshoe hares, especially where the brush was thick.

Snowshoe hare populations follow a cycle that peaks about every 10 years before crashing. We must be near the peak this winter because there are lots of hare tracks.

The hares get their name from their enormous hind feet which serve as snowshoes to keep their owner from sinking into the soft snow. I think it's pretty likely that people copied the hares when the first human snowshoes were invented. In typical rabbit family fashion, hares hop with both hind feet, and the hind feet actually land ahead of the front feet in the somewhat heart-shaped track.

Snowshoe hares use the same trails over and over again to move between feeding and resting areas. Some of these cross the Boardwalk, either under or over depending on how far above the snow the structure is. I looked underneath at one crossing location and found where a hare had rested. Hares spend their resting time in sheltered locations called forms and it seems at least one hare thought the Boardwalk made an excellent shelter.

All the best to everyone for a prosperous New Year!

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