Shorter winters along southern edge of the hares’ range worse than habitat bashing
L. Scott Mills Research Photo
For Wisconsin’s snowshoe hares, climate change now ranks as an even bigger menace than the bulldozing, paving and other destructive things people have done to northern forests.
Habitat loss as humans reshape landscapes has loomed for decades as the main conservation problem for a lot of wildlife. It’s still important, says climate change ecologist Benjamin Zuckerberg of the University of Wisconsin‒Madison. But along the southern boundary of the snowshoe hares’ range, climate change bringing skimpy snow covers has surpassed direct habitat loss as a threat, Zuckerberg and his colleagues say March 30 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
North America’s Lepus americanus hares may be especially sensitive to climate change. “Almost everything about them screams adaptation to seasons of extensive snow cover,” says study coauthor Jonathan