Two species of native hares reside within Strathcona County: snowshoes hares and jackrabbits. Both types are brownish-grey in summer and white in winter. Snowshoe hares are more typical of the forest and parkland regions, while jackrabbits prefer an open habitat.
Hares are herbivores that feed on most broad-leaf plants and grasses. During the winter, hares will browse on buds, bark and small twigs.
Landscape trees, shelterbelts, orchards and plantations suffer in the winter because hares may girdle young stems or completely prune buds and shoots. Evergreen trees and seedlings are also not immune to hare damage. Gnawing the bark of woody plants can be a direct or contributing cause of plant mortality. Severe pruning by hares may also result in undesirable re-growth.
There are a number of ways to manage hares, depending on the severity of the issue.
- Poultry mesh - place a one-metre high fence of poultry mesh around small gardens, orchards and plantations. Bury the bottom edge of the mesh 7 to 10 cm into the ground to prevent hares from digging under the fence. Do not brace the poultry mesh against tree trunks as hares can feed through the holes.
- Hardware cloth - hardware cloth (0.6 cm mesh) is an excellent barrier. It should be set 7 to 10 cm into the ground and extend one metre above the potential snow line to prevent damage. The fine mesh of hardware cloth will also protect trees and shrubs from mice and voles.
Modification of existing habitat
- Removal of undergrowth - snowshoe hares need brushy cover for protection. Removing non-essential undergrowth and debris will eliminate the shelter where hares live.
- Change of crops - continuous or severe plant damage may warrant a change to less susceptible plant species. For garden crops, this approach may mean changing to corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes or potatoes. Unfortunately, most fruit and ornamental trees of the rose family are not immune to hare damage.
- Use of repellents - repellents make plants distasteful to hares. Two different formulations of thiram are sold under the product name SKOOT and can be purchased at local garden stores.
Animal removal may be effective if damage is being caused by a few animals or when combined with other preventative measures.
Live traps are ideal for removing hares in an urban setting. An open mesh live trap is required. Winter baits include dried apples, alfalfa and clover. Successful warm weather baits include carrots, lettuce, cabbage and apples. Hares can be captured in funnel pen traps constructed of poultry wire. The funnel trap must be at least 1 m high and 3 m in diameter, with the top completely enclosed to prevent hares from jumping out.
Hares can be hunted year-round without a license. Please refer to the Firearm Control Bylaw 3-2014.
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