It was supposed get up to 51º and rain today. Instead, there were intermittent clouds and fog and the temperature was around 30º . So, a fairly good day to go out looking for Snowshoe rabbits (AKA Snowshoe hare, AKA Varying hare). The “snowshoe” part of the name (and the “Bigfoot” reference) comes from their oversized hind feet which enable them to easily stay on top of the snow and help them outrun their predators.
(The hat does not belong to the rabbit, it’s mine, just there for perspective). The large prints are from the rear feet, the small ones from the front ones. The track shows that this one was headed to the left in the photo. When they jump, the front feet come down first, then the big rear ones which start the jump cycle over again. The space between tracks like this set can be over 8 feet when the rabbit is running full out.
There is a place quite close to home where I know there are lots of these rabbits, but it’s a mile up this road, then another mile up an offshoot of it. The traffic on the road has packed down the snow and the melt and freeze cycles have changed the tracks to pure ice about 3 inches thick, not especially fun to drive on even with 4WD, and being to lazy to chain up the Jeep I chose to walk.
Though I could find no rabbits, the hike was embellished with some pretty fog scenes and turned into an enjoyable outing.
The secret for hiking 4 miles on ice in comfort and security? Yaktrax. In winter, don’t go hiking without them. (Not an advertisement, but a pretty good recommendation.)
The morning began at 10º but bright and clear. The hunt began on snow that squeaked so loud that our steps could be heard for a mile away, giving the game a big head start and they left nothing but tracks. So, I brought back only photos, with is really what I go out for in the first place. Following is a few taken from along a 5 mile hike along the bottom part of McCully Ridge in the Thompson River drainage above Fishtrap Creek.
After some research on the bubbles in the ice I found that the bubbles are formed when plants on the pond bottom release methane gas and the bubbles freeze when they reach the cold surface of the pond, with further bubbles stacking up below. The ice on the pond in which these bubbles are frozen is 6″ to 12″ thick.