Hares and rodents
Hares used to be regarded as rodents, but have now been classified in a separate order known as leporids. Together with rodents, they are a key source of food for a large number of species, making them very important in the wild!
‘Small rodents’ is the generic term that applies to mice and lemmings, among other animals. As small rodents are so numerous, they are very important for the ecosystem, and represent an important source of food for a great many predators and birds of prey. Small rodent populations grow and shrink in periodic cycles known as small-rodent fluctuations. When there are a lot of small rodents, we say it is a ‘rodent year’.
One rodent in particular is important in the mountains: the lemming. This little rodent is a member of the hamster family and is very important for the Arctic fox, for example. It has also become apparent that the lemming is important for the wolverine.
The beaver may well be one of the animals with the greatest impact on the landscape. If the beaver does not like the depth of the water somewhere, it will build a dam to make the water the right depth for it to build it’s house, or lodge, there.
The beaver eats bark and twigs from trees that it fells itself. It likes to drag food underwater to ensure that it has a good supply under the ice in winter. Otherwise, it spends the winter in it’s lodge.
The beaver is prey for wolves, particularly in the winter, when the wolf can dig down into its lodge. The beaver can also be easy prey when it goes on land to gnaw trees.
Not many animals are as easy to recognise as the hare. It’s long ears and enormous back legs make the hare a distinctive creature. The hare is one of the fastest animals in the forest and can reach speeds of 80 km/h over short distances. This comes in handy when it has to escape from predators. The male hare is called a jack, while the female is a jill.
The hare lives alone, and even the mother does not spend much time with her young. She leaves them on their own for the most part and only returns to provide milk.
The hare lives a dangerous life and constantly has to be on the watch for threats. On the ground, both foxes and lynx hunt it, but the hare can also be hunted from the sky, as several birds of prey enjoy a hare for dinner!
The squirrel is small and a rodent, but is not classified as a small rodent. This little acrobat jumps from tree to tree and spends most of its life in the treetops.
The squirrel likes to eat seeds and nuts, and is an expert when it comes to eating the seeds in pine and spruce cones.
Since the squirrel lives high up, the main threat to it comes from the pine marten. But the squirrel can also be hunted by birds of prey.