Date of Award

12-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Biology (M.S.)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Paul Keenlance

Second Advisor

Robert Sanders

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Jacquot

Academic Year

2019/2020

Abstract

Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) are a wide-ranging lagomorph that are important forest herbivores and a popular game species throughout their range. Across the southern boundary of their geographic range, snowshoe hares are experiencing population declines and possible extirpation due to increased predation pressure driven by climate change induced camouflage mismatch, competition for forage, degraded and fragmented habitat. One method of reversing the negative trends in snowshoe hare distribution is to increase and improve available hare habitat. A specific habitat analysis for local regions will most effectively advise managers how to target habitat management. I radio-collared 11 snowshoe hares in the Manistee National Forest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula from August 2017-May 2019 to document their local habitat use. Snowshoe hares used areas of greater understory density than available forest. Regenerating aspen stands provided this type of habitat, as aspen stands also had significantly greater understory density and total stem count than random available forest. We found snowshoe hares to use lower understory density during leaf-off periods, due to a lack of available dense coniferous understory. Snowshoe hare survival increased in areas with greater proportions of aspen stands, but showed no trends associated with coniferous stands. In the Manistee National Forest, regenerating aspen stands will be a large determinant of the persistence, survival, and distribution of snowshoe hares in the immediate future.

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