Factors influencing snowshoe hare occupancy and abundance

snowshoe hare tracks
project completed

Problem/Need:

The decline in snowshoe hare harvest and presumably abundance is likely associated with multiple factors. Because of the ecological and cultural importance of this species, there is a need to better understand how these factors influence the abundance of hare and occupancy of particular habitats.

Personnel:

  1. Dr. Dwayne Etter - DNR Principle Investigator
  2. Dr. Gary Roloff - Michigan State University Principle Investigator

Findings/Recommendations:

  1. Snow track surveys, if correctly configured, can accurately (>95% chance of being correct) estimate site-level (~7ha) hare occupancy.
  2. Of the climate variables we analyzed, maximum temperature from May 15 – January 19 and the number of days with snow on the ground explained the most variation in site-level extinction probability for hares.
  3. Given the forest dominated landscapes that we worked in, historical land use was not an important factor in determining snowshoe hare site occupancy.
  4. Current land use (i.e., the ratio between forest and open edges) and visual obstruction at 2-3m above the ground were important factors influencing site-level occupancy.
  5. When climate, land use, and vegetation structure variables were combined, the top-ranking model included both climate and vegetation variables suggesting that vegetation management may help mitigate negative climate impacts to snowshoe hares.

Partners:

  1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act Grant
  2. Michigan State University - Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
  3. Safari Club International - Michigan Involvement Committee