Snowshoe Hares digest their food twice in order to extract the most nutrients possible from their food. Two kinds of pellets are produced by hares: hard pellets (twice digested) and soft pellets called cecotropes (digested once). Food is ingested and passes through a sac-like structure between the small and large intestine called the cecum. Bacteria in the cecum synthesize proteins and vitamins and as a result of this synthesis, cecotropes have twice the protein and half of the fiber of the typical hard pellet. They also contain high levels of vitamin K and B vitamins. In order to obtain the nutrients produced in the cecum, Snowshoe Hares eat and redigest the soft cecotropes (often produced early in the morning which is why we rarely see them). These pellets which have been digested twice provide up to 20 percent of a hare’s daily protein.
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