In a new set issued today, Canada Post is recognizing five of the world’s 19 mammal species that undergo the twice-yearly process of moulting.
The five-stamp set, “Snow Mammals,” features a handful of animals found in Canada with a survival skill that’s distinctly adapted to the country’s snowy climate: their otherwise dark coats turn white in winter.
The stamps feature the ermine, snowshoe hare, Arctic fox, northern collared lemming and Peary caribou – two predators and three prey – whose camouflage makes them difficult to spot in their natural habitats (especially at this time of year). The Arctic fox and ermine are stealthy hunters that often rely on the element of surprise to sneak up on their next meal. The snowshoe hare and northern collared lemming (dietary staples of many carnivores) and Peary caribou try to blend into the background to escape detection.
These five are among only 19 mammal species worldwide (and 12 in Canada) that undergo a change in coat colour as the result of a complex physiological process influenced by changes in daylight hours. Known as moulting, it’s a gradual, twice-yearly process starting around the first snowfall and reversing in the warmer months (beginning around the spring melt).
Designed by Vancouver artist Adrian Horvath, who also designed Canada Post’s 2016 “Birds of Canada” and Star Trek sets, this year’s snow mammal stamps showcase each animal in its winter coat and habitat.
The stamps’ photographs were all taken by Canadian photographers, including:
- the Yukon’s Robert Postma, who captured the ermine;
- Ontario’s Michelle Valberg, who captured the snowshoe hare;
- Manitoba’s Dennis Fast, who captured the Arctic fox;
- Québec’s Mathilde Poirier, who captured the northern collared lemming; and
- Saskatchewan’s Paul Loewen, who captured the peary caribou.
In the lower left-hand corner of each stamp, visible only under ultraviolet light, a set of the animal’s tracks appear as they would in fresh snow.
Printed by the Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Company, these Permanent domestic-rate stamps are available as 10-stamp booklets (300,000 printed), as five-stamp souvenir sheets (70,000 printed) and affixed to official first-day covers (7,000 printed). The covers are franked with each of the five stamps, all of which are tied by a trio of cancels from Snow Lake, Man.