For the first time a case of cannibalism among hares has been documented. But not only. Scientists have observed these animals while feeding on lynx carcasses (their main predators) and even bird feathers, a rare behavior among mammals, thanks to the cameras placed in the Yukon forests in Canada.
Two and a half years of research. To immortalize the unusual meals of the hare snow shoe (Lepus americanus) a team of zoologists from the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Alberta. The Canadian scholars, coordinated by Dr. Michael Peers, between January 2015 and July 2017 have studied the behavior of the 'tender' lagomorphs on the border with Alaska, especially on Mount Elias, where the temperature in winter can fall by some tens of degrees below zero. Placing several cameras in the vicinity of about 150 identified carcasses, those of animals killed by predators or deaths due to natural causes, have documented that in about twenty cases hares have been fed meat.
Not really herbivores. Among the species involved in the snow shoe hare behavior, in addition to the hares themselves, there were even Canadian lynxes (Lynx canadensis), beautiful cats that live in high latitudes in North America. Although it is not entirely new to observe the carnivorous behavior of hares, cannibalism has been documented for the first time, and the variety of the meat menu has been analyzed. Peers and colleagues have noticed that hares carefully avoid the carcasses of animals too large, not being able to compete with bears, gluttons and other powerful scavengers, while vigorously defend smaller meals from their peers.
Because they eat meat. The researchers were particularly surprised to see the hares also consume the feathers of a bird, the tetraone of the sins (Falcipennis canadensis). This is a very rare eating behavior in mammals, especially due to the difficulty of digestion. According to scientists, hares feed on feathers and meat to supplement proteins when they are scarce; it is no coincidence that carnivorous raids have been detected in the cold winter months, when "being satisfied" with alternative meals can be the only way to survive. Scientists, who have published the details of their study in the scientific journal Bio One Complete, point out that these findings could push to revise the concept of herbivore. They will continue to investigate the area because they do not rule out that hares can actively go hunting for small prey, as well as behaving like scavengers.