Risky behavior and its effect on survival: snowshoe hare behavior under varying moonlight conditions

Journal of Zoology
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Abstract

Predation and predation risk can exert strong influences on the behavior of prey species. However, risk avoidance behaviors may vary among populations of the same species. We studied a population of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) near the southern edge of their range, in Pennsylvania. This population occupies different habitat types, experiences different environmental conditions, and are exposed to different predator species and densities than northern hare populations; therefore, they might exhibit differences in risk avoidance behaviors. We analyzed hare survival, movement rates, and habitat use under different levels of predation risk, as indexed by moonlight. Similar to previous work, we found snowshoe hare survival decreased with increased moon illumination during the winter, but we found differences in behavioral responses to increased predation risk. We found that snowshoe hares did not reduce movement rates during high‐risk nights, but instead found that hares selected areas with denser canopy cover, compared to low‐risk nights. We suggest that behavioral plasticity in response to predation risk allows populations of the same species to respond to localized conditions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Risky behavior and its effect on survival: snowshoe hare behavior under varying moonlight conditions
Series title Journal of Zoology
DOI 10.1111/jzo.12532
Volume 305
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher ZSL
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 8 p.
First page 27
Last page 34