My MSc. research focuses on maternal investment of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) in the Kluane region of the Yukon territory. Snowshoe hares undergo dramatic fluctuations in population over an 8-11 year period, with the hare cycle currently in the low phase (2020/21). My research aims to elucidate maternal behaviours towards, and investment in, snowshoe hare offspring (“leverets”) through analyses of proximity and nutritional transfer. Supported by data pertaining to survival and movement of adult hares and leverets previously conducted in the lab, I will be conducting proximity analyses of female hares in relation to their leverets to distinguish between maternal behaviours of nourishment and protection. Analyzing snowshoe hare milk collected from female hares post-birth may provide insight into the nutritional value of the milk provided to the leverets, as well as potential changes in milk composition throughout the hare population cycles.
Understanding the dynamics of the snowshoe hare is extremely important since they are a keystone species of the boreal forest, a species upon which many others rely for their survival. My research will further our current understanding of maternal interactions and behaviours of snowshoe hares, in addition to providing further insights into potential mechanisms and drivers of cyclic populations.