Distribution and abundance of snowshoe hares in yellowstone national park

Karen E. Hodges, L. Scott Mills, Kerry M. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) are widespread in boreal and montane forests of North America, vary in their temporal dynamics, and are major drivers in their food webs. In Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, hare abundance, distribution, and temporal dynamics are unknown, yet Yellowstone contains a large area within their southern range that is relatively unfragmented by human activities. The 1988 Yellowstone fires have led to extensive regenerating stands, a serai condition that elsewhere supports relatively high numbers of hares. To examine snowshoe hare dynamics in the park from 2002 to 2007, we surveyed stands within 7 cover types and estimated abundance for a subset of sites. Both livetrapping data and fecal pellet count surveys showed that snowshoe hares are rare in Yellowstone. More than 36% of surveyed stands did not support any hares. Mature forest cover types were more likely to have hares than were stands regenerating after the 1988 fires, but very few stands supported high numbers; 96% of stands had <0.5 hares/ha. Three stands that burned in 2003 had hares before the fire, but none afterward. Hare numbers fluctuated modestly over time, but patterns were not indicative of a cycle. Taken altogether, our results indicate that snowshoe hares in Yellowstone are rare, patchily distributed, and apparently acyclic, important findings both for understanding hare dynamics and for implications for the Yellowstone food web that includes the federally Threatened Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-878
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Volume90
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2009

Keywords

  • Fire
  • Habitat
  • Lepus americanus
  • Lodgepole pine
  • Snowshoe hare
  • Yellowstone national park

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