Demography and ecology of a declining snowshoe hare population.

L. B. Keith, J. R. Cary, O. J. Rongstad, M. C. Brittingham

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Abstract

Lepus americanus populations were studied at Rochester, Alberta, during the 2nd winter of a cyclic decline. Snowshoe populations on study areas with dense cover due to a burn in 1968 tended to have higher early-winter densities, lower overwinter survival, lower juvenile than adult survival, higher rates of dispersal, higher overwinter weight losses, and later onset of reproduction. Periods of high weight loss coincided with high rates of ingress that temporarily increased densities. Snowshoes on food-short areas exhibited typical demographic symptoms of malnutrition (marked differential loss of juveniles, high overwinter weight loss, and later onset of reproduction). Predation was the paramount (80-90%) immediate cause of hare mortality, but malnourished hares were significantly more vulnerable to predators, and losses rose sharply at temperatures below -30oC. Outright starvation is a short-term phenomenon confined largely to the first few months of a major decline from peak densities. This is followed by 1 or 2 winters when malnutrition and predation in concert produce high mortality, and probably by a further period when predation is solely responsible. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWildlife Monographs
Volume90
StatePublished - Jan 1 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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