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Predator-Prey Lab: The Lynx and the Hare Directions Introduction

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Predator-Prey Lab: The Lynx and the Hare Directions
Populations are always changing. Sometimes changes are the result of humans interfering with food webs or habitats. But even when humans do not interfere, populations will still naturally shift up and down or fluctuate. As an example, we will look closely at the relationship between the Canada lynx and its primary prey, the snowshoe hare.

The snowshoe hare is a common species of rabbit found in North America, its range extending throughout Canada, Alaska, and into the northern United States. One distinctive quality is its two different coloration patterns – brown in the summer, and white in the winter to better camouflage with the snow. Its diet consists of grasses, berries, twigs, bark and leaves.

The Canada lynx is a wild cat that resembles a large house cat with a short tail and prominent tufts on its ears. It is very secretive and even experienced hunters rarely see one in the wild. Its range overlaps with the snowshoe hare, on which it almost exclusively preys upon.  

For over 300 years, the Hudson Bay Company has been involved in the fur trade in Canada. Detailed company records list the number of snowshoe hare pelts and the number of lynx pelts collected by hunters and trappers every year since the late 1700’s. The data shows a 200 year history of cyclical population booms and busts in the snowshoe hare population and a slightly delayed population boom and bust in the lynx population. Native Americans observed this cycle long before Europeans began trapping the hares and lynx for their pelts.


  • Masking tape

  • Ruler

  • Lynx square


    1. Create a 12 inch x 12 inch square using masking tape.

    1. Begin with 3 hares spread out within the square.

    1. Toss the lynx into the habitat square in an effort to capture (i.e. land on any portion of) as many hares as possible.

  • In order to survive and reproduce, the lynx must capture at least 3 hares.

  • If successful, the lynx survives and produces offspring. (1 offspring for every 3 hares captured)

Ex. 1 lynx catches 0-2 hares = 0 offspring produced

1 lynx catches 3-5 hares = 1 offspring produced

1 lynx catches 6-8 hares = 2 offspring produces

1 lynx catches 9-11 hares = 3 offspring produces

1 lynx catches 12-14 hares = 4 offspring produces

  • If unsuccessful, the lynx dies. (Always start with 1 lynx)

  • Toss 1 lynx and remove hares BEFORE tossing the next lynx.

    1. Each hare remaining will reproduce 1 hare offspring (the surviving hare populations will double each generation). Place the offspring hares in the habitat square with the parent hares.

    1. Record your data after each generation.

    2. Repeat steps 3-6 for 20 generations.

Predator-Prey Lab: The Lynx and the Hare

Data Table


Starting # of Hares

# of Hares Eaten

# of Hares Survived

# of Hare Offspring

Starting # of Lynx

# of Lynx Died

# of Lynx Survived

# of Lynx Offspring





















Graphcreate a line graph of your data showing the starting number of hare and lynx for each generation. Include a title, labels on each axis, and a key.

Analysis Questions

  1. Where do snowshoe hare and lynx live?

  1. What are some physical characteristics of snowshoe hare?

  1. What are some physical characteristics of the Canada lynx?

  1. List 3 other predator-prey relationships.

  1. Describe your graph. What patterns do you notice?

  1. How does the size of the hare population affect the lynx population?

  1. How does the size of the lynx population affect the hare population?

  1. Describe what would happen to the hare population if there were no predators.

  1. Describe what would happen if another predator, such as wolves, were added to the habitat.

  1. Natural populations are subject to many pressures and disturbances in their habitats. List at least 4 different disturbances that would affect the lynx or hare populations. Specifically explain how each disturbance affects the population.

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