European hares select resting places for providing cover
 
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1
University of Basel, Zoological Institute, Vesalgasse 1, 4051 Basel, Switzerland and Hintermann & Weber AG, Austrasse 2a, 4153 Reinach, Switzerland
2
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Gregor Mendel Strasse 33, 1180 Wien, Austria
3
Hintermann & Weber AG, Austrasse 2a, 4153 Reinach, Switzerland
4
University of Basel, Zoological Institute, Vesalgasse 1, 4051 Basel, Switzerland and Research Station Petite Camargue Alsacienne, Rue de la Pisciculture, 68300 Saint-Louis, France
Publish date: 2012-02-23
 
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2011;22(2)
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ABSTRACT
European hares (Lepus europaeus) are thought to select resting places providing cover, to protect themselves against predators and unfavourable weather conditions. We tested this hypothesis by flushing wild hares from their resting places and by assessing the cover at hare forms. The vegetation at resting places was generally found to be higher than 30 cm, i.e. higher than the approximate height of a hare. As compared to randomly chosen control points, hares showed a preference for cover at their resting places throughout the year. From April to August, all investigated habitat categories, but most often field habitats were used for resting places, and during this season, vegetation providing cover above 30 cm was found in all habitat categories. From September to March, however, resting places were mostly found in forests or in areas between fields, whereas open fields with little or no vegetation were generally avoided as resting sites. Furthermore, we found that flight distances depended on cover value and were lower in dense vegetation, suggesting that hares valued resting places providing cover as a better protection against predators. We suggest that the loss of cover in agricultural landscapes has reduced the availability of resting places for the European hare and has likely contributed to the population decline in intensely used landscapes.
eISSN:1825-5272
ISSN:0394-1914