(Lepus townsendii). Patient Number 22-129.
Date of admission: April 21, 2022.
Reason for admission: Orphaned.
White-tailed prairie hares are solitary except during the breeding season when several males will actively compete to breed with the females. The breeding season is variable depending on several environmental factors but generally extends from late February to early July. The gestation period is 42 days. In preparation for the birth of her young, a female hare will build a fur-lined nest that is carefully hidden under dense vegetation. A litter can consist of up to eleven young, although four or five is a more typical number. Young hares, or leverets, weigh a mere 100 grams (3.5 ounces) at birth and are fully furred with their eyes open. Being a prey species, their period of growth, and subsequent independence, is relatively short. Leverets are typically weaned at three to four weeks old, though they may begin exploring much earlier than that. Around dawn, the female will often scatter her young across an open space that she believes to be safe. Due to their natural camouflage, the leverets are often quite successful at remaining still and hiding, until mum returns at dusk. It is becoming common for homeowners to discover several young hares hiding among the bushes in their backyards while their mothers graze nearby. Under these circumstances, unless you see an obvious injury, it is best to leave them there so mum can continue to care for them.
An adult hare’s diet includes a wide variety of grasses, the buds of shrubs, and the bark of small trees. Urban backyards offer a wide variety of these items and white-tailed prairie hares are increasingly taking advantage of this permanent food source.
This baby hare was brought into care after being found on a school playground being attacked by birds. Thankfully, he only sustained minimal injuries and is otherwise healthy. Seeing as he is still quite young, he will remain with us until he is a little older, and an appropriate size. There are many other hares like him in care, so he will remain with them, and be released along with others when he is ready.