Tennessee’s Snowshoe Hares

Yesterday, Chattanooga— where For Fox Sake is based— did the most stereotypically Southern thing possible. In anticipation of less than half an inch of snow, we cleared out all the milk sandwich ingedients from our local grocery stores, closed schools and businesses, and huddled into our homes expecting the worst. The few flurries that fell were all melted by 9:00 a.m.

It’s hard to believe that snowshoe hares, well-known as an arctic species, once made their homes right here in this warm Southern state. But they did— possibly even in your lifetime!

Some of the high-altitude mountains in East Tennessee were once rich in mature, coniferous forests where snowshoe hares can thrive. Although they were never especially common here, snowshoe hares were recorded sporadically in Tennessee mountains into the 1970s.

It’s extremely unlikely that snowshoe hares still live in Tennessee. Human development has nearly destroyed the mature mountain forests that arctic hares depended on for their survival, and climate change has eliminated the expected winter snow-cover that kept snowshoe hares safe in their white winter coats. Today, climate change is threatening even Canada’s snowshoe hares as they struggle to adapt to a warming planet.

Still, there’s a small chance that an isolated population of arctic hares still make their home somewhere in the state, in some secluded forest left pristine from human development. It’s just one more reason to protect the natural treasures of our beautiful state.

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