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Snowshoe Hare Urine

2-28-13 hare urine IMG_4070Snowshoe hare scat is very distinctive – round, brown, pea-size fibrous pellets. Equally, if not more, distinct is their urine, which sometimes is orange, red or pinkish, depending on their diet. Often mistaken for blood, snowshoe hare urine has this color because of chemical compounds called porphyrins which are present in the chlorophyll molecules of green plants that hares consume. These compounds have such vibrant pigments that they were originally extracted from plants and used as dye for clothing. If you’re interested in seeing this colorful phenomenon, now is the time to do so, for it’s obviously a lot easier to find when there is snow on the ground!

9 responses

  1. Kathy Schillemat

    Does this happen with deer sometimes as well? We found some bright orange urine at a deer bed site earlier this winter.

    February 28, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    • I’ve also seen deer urine this color, and assume it’s for the same reason, but don’t know positively — it would make sense, though.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:48 pm

  2. …And how about with Moose? We found orange/red colored snow accompanying moose tracks in areas where browsing was taking place. One area also had several hairs present and we wondered whether ticks/grooming may be the cause. Since all these herbivores are eating similar foods at this time of year, it seems like the same chemistry may occur?

    February 28, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    • Yes, Beth, I think you’re right. I’ve seen deer urine this color, but haven’t been around moose in the winter enough to have seen that — but as you say, they’re eating some of the same food, and it would make total sense if they were affected similarly. I know that ticks are a real issue for moose, and the loss of hair could well be a result of them.

      February 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

  3. Kyle Jones

    Thanks Mary. Went out, found some, even though I’ve only seen snowshoe hare here once in the past 15 years!

    February 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm

  4. Cindy

    Went out snowshoeing with friends yesterday. I said, “We will see the red snowshoe hare urine because Mary Holland wrote about it today. LOL” Well, we did not see urine, but we saw the actually hare! Tuck up beside a tree. We saw it going out and it was still there 2 hours later coming back. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Your blog is amazing.

    March 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    • I’m quite envious — and amazed it was still there two hours later, Cindy! How close did it let you get?

      March 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm

  5. Cindy

    Hi Mary. It was the good eye of the friend I was with. We probably got within 20 feet. We were above it and it was such a good view, there was no need to get any closer and further disturb the animal. Made our day. Hopefully it’s stillness was not because it was sick. It looked healthy and beautiful!

    March 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

  6. Colleen

    Thank you!! I was “naturally curious” too as I was worried about my friendly yard hare, and was curious as to whether he was ill … Thanks again 😀

    February 21, 2016 at 3:59 pm

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