Deep in the northern stretches of Yukon in Canada, a population of hares has well and truly ruined the cute and innocent image of their biological family.
No longer satisfied with their diet of grasses and berries, the hares have resorted to meat-eating and even cannibalism. The unlikely behavior was spotted by ecologists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who documented their findings in the journal BioOne Complete. They observed a number of different snowshoe hares scavenging on carcasses of their own species, as well as grouse, loon birds, and even a lynx, their most ferocious predator. Revenge is sweet.
"It's weird seeing a bunny… just kind of getting its head right into the side carcass of another rabbit and consuming meat," study author Michael Peers, a PhD candidate in ecology, told CBC News. "It's kind of, I guess, not what you'd expect."
After hearing a number of reports about this carnivorous quirk, the researchers decided to find out more by placing motion-triggered cameras near to the carcasses of different animals. At least 20 out of 161 carcasses, that’s 12.4 percent, were snacked on by the hares. Their favorite meat, for no apparent reason, was grouse. The team also noted that numerous hares were intentionally eating the feathers of the grouse and other birds.
Scavenging was most common between November and February, after which it began to slump. In the spring months, from May to July, this behavior was not seen at all, suggesting these bloody snacks are highly seasonal.
In the winter months, daytime temperatures in the Yukon region tend to stay around -13°C (8°F), although the area has recorded cold snaps as low as -60°C (-76°F) in past decades. Vegetation, therefore, is not easy to come by. The researchers believe that the hares turn to meat-eating as a means of getting some much-needed protein in the colder months. However, it remains unclear whether this is fairly typical behavior in the winter or if it's a last-ditch attempt to obtain nutrition.
If you thought this was unexpected, then prepare to hear about what scientists observed deer getting up to at a forensic research facility in Texas. Numerous wild deer were filmed eating human remains, which had been left outside to see how wild animals would interact with them. A researcher documented one deer scavenging and then “holding the bone in its mouth like a cigar.”
Bambi will never be the same again.