Prescribed burning has the potential to improve habitat for species that depend on pyric ecosystems or other early successional vegetation types. For species that occupy diverse plant communities over the extent of their range, response to disturbances such as fire might vary based on post-disturbance vegetation dynamics among plant communities. Although responses of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) to fire have been studied in conifer-dominated forests in northern parts of the species’ range, there is a lack of information on snowshoe hare habitat use in fire-dependent communities in southern parts of their range. We used global positioning system (GPS) and very high frequency (VHF) radio-collars to monitor the habitat use of 32 snowshoe hares in a scrub-oak (Quercus ilicifolia)-pitch pine (Pinus rigida) barrens complex in northeastern Pennsylvania where prescribed fire has been used for habitat restoration. The area contained stands that underwent prescribed burning 1–6 years prior to our study. Also, we investigated fine-scale determinants of habitat use within stands. We found that regardless of season, hares did not select for areas that had been burned within 6 years prior. Hares primarily used stands of older scrub oak, conifer, or hardwoods, which contained dense understory vegetation and canopy cover. Hare habitat use also was positively associated with stand edges. Our results suggest that hares do not respond to prescribed burning of scrub oak in the short-term. In addition, by focusing on structural determinants of habitat use, rather than broad-scale characteristics such as stand type, management strategies for snowshoe hares can be adapted over the extent of their range despite the multitude of different land cover types across which the species occurs.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Snowshoe hare multi-level habitat use in a fire-adapted ecosystem|
|Series title||Journal of Wildlife Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|