Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Eric M. Gese
Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) are a critically important prey species for Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). Determination of snowshoe hare distribution and abundance is needed in western Wyoming for lynx conservation. We used linear regression to examine the correlations between snowshoe hare density, as determined by mark-recapture estimates, and fecal pellet plot counts on both uncleared and annually cleared plots on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, western Wyoming. We found significant correlations between hare density estimates and fecal pellet counts for both uncleared and annually cleared pellet counts; however the relationship was much stronger for annually cleared pellet counts. Adjusting the buffer size by omitting hard habitat edges (not used by hares) around the trapping grids improved correlations between hare density and fecal pellet counts further. We recommend pellet counts from annually cleared plots be used when precise estimates of snowshoe hare abundance are required. Though precision is sacrificed when using uncleared plots, they are useful as a coarse index of habitat use by hares. The derived regression equations should be used to identify foraging habitat for lynx in western Wyoming. In addition to snowshoe hares, in western Wyoming red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and grouse (Bonasa umbellus and Dendragapus obscurus) are used by Canada lynx. Whether young forests or older multi-storied forests contain more snowshoe hares, red squirrels, and grouse in western Wyoming is currently unknown. We estimated snowshoe hare density, and indexed red squirrel and forest grouse abundance in 3 classes of 30-70-year-old lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and 4 classes of mature multi-storied forest with a spruce (Picea engelmannii)-fir (Abies lasiocarpa) component. We recorded landscape and forest structure characteristics to understand how these influence lynx prey abundance. Overall, snowshoe hares, red squirrels, and forest grouse were more abundant in multi-storied forests than young forests. Forest attributes that predicted prey abundance were often more prevalent in multi-storied forests. Results from this study suggest that multi-storied forests with a spruce-fir component were disproportionately important to snowshoe hares, red squirrels, and forest grouse in western Wyoming. Canada lynx conservation efforts should focus on maintaining, enhancing, and promoting multi-storied forests in this region.
Berg, Nathan Daniel, "Snowshoe Hare and Forest Structure Relationships in Western Wyoming" (2010). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 579.
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