We developed a multivariate description of black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) habitat associations from Geographical Information Systems (GIS) signatures surrounding known jackrabbit locations in the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA), in southwestern Idaho. Habitat associations were determined for characteristics within a 1-km radius (approx home range size) of jackrabbits sighted on night spotlight surveys conducted from 1987 through 1995. Predictive habitat variables were number of shrub, agriculture, and hydrography cells, mean and standard deviation of shrub patch size, habitat richness, and a measure of spatial heterogeneity. In winter, jackrabbits used smaller and less variable sizes of shrub patches and areas of higher spatial heterogeneity when compared to summer observations (P < 0.05). During the low population phase, jackrabbits also used agricultural regions more during winter than summer. The association with agricultural regions was emphasized spatially in a GIS map contrasting winter and summer periods. Multivariate habitat means (P < 0.001), but not individual GIS variables (P > 0.05), differed significantly between high and low population phase. We used the Mahalanobis distance statistic to rank all 50-m cells in a 440,000-ha region relative to the multivariate mean habitat vector. On verification surveys to test predicted models, we sighted jackrabbits in areas ranked close to the mean habitat vector. Areas burned by large-scale fires between 1980 and 1992 or in an area repeatedly burned by military training activities had greater Mahalanobis distances from the mean habitat vector than unburned areas and were less likely to contain habitats used by jackrabbits.
Additional publication details
Distribution of black-tailed jackrabbit habitat determined by GIS in southwestern Idaho