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Shorter winters leave some creatures mismatched with their habitat

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe hares, Science and Survival

Sneed B. Collard III
Bucking Horse Books
64 pp.
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Age Range: 7 – 10 years

Grade Level: 3 – 7

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change is a picture book by award-winning author Sneed B. Collard III that uses photos and diagrams to convey the effects of global warming on animals that change coat color with the seasons. It is simple enough for elementary school children but packed with information that even adults may not know. The book begins by introducing Scott Mills, a wildlife biologist who studies the snowshoe hare, a species that molts on a schedule based on day length, changing from brown to white each fall. Mills explains that, as a result of global warming, the changes in day length no longer correspond with snowfall in the hare’s native habitat, which means that the color of the hares is often not synchronized with their environment, making them easy targets for predators.

But are hares aware of the mismatch? Are mismatched hares more likely to be eaten? Would the mismatches worsen over the years, or would hare populations evolve? Collard explains how Mills set out to answer these questions, describing everything from the tracking devices the researchers place on the hares to monitor their movements in the forest and determine where and how they die (the more mismatched a hare is with its environment, the less likely it is to survive, we learn) to a device called a “bunny chiller,” which the scientists use to simulate temperature changes and monitor the hares’ reactions in the laboratory. The author concludes the book by offering advice to the readers on ways that they, too, can protect the hares—and the rest of the planet.