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Food Utilization of Snowshoe Hares on Manitoulin Island, Ontario

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The feeding habits of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) were studied on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, during the period 1959-1962. The hares reached peak population densities in 1960 and 1961. Qualitative analyses were made by taking random cruises and quantitative data were obtained by counting available stems and evaluating their utilization on plots one chain X 6.6 feet. The qualitative appraisal indicated heavy localized barking and girdling in winters 1958-1959 and 1959-1960. During winter 1960-1961 barking had become more localized. No differences could be ascertained in browsing pressure during these three winters. Pinus strobus and Pinus resinosa were browsed more heavily than other conifers. The quantitative appraisal indicated that barking pressure increased substantially from winters 1959-1960 to 1960-1961. Among those species most heavily barked were Populus tremuloides, Alnus rugosa, Corylus cornuta, Ostrya virginiana, Salix spp., and Populus balsamifera. No barking was observed on Rhamnus alnifolia, Fraxinus nigra, Amelanchier spp., and pine species. Browsing was locally moderate to heavy on Populus tremuloides, Betula papyrifera, Populus balsamifera, Amelanchier spp., Acer spicatum, Acer pensylvanicum, Corylus cornuta, Viburnum trilobum, Rubus idaeus, and Sambucus pubens. No browsing was observed on Rhus toxicodendron and on Rhamnus alnifolia. Larix laricina and Fraxinus nigra were only lightly browsed. Forty-four species of trees and shrubs were browsed. Snowshoe hares may affect the availability of food and plant composition by preferentially feeding on certain species resulting in a differential survival of plants utilized.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Member of the Department of Zoology, Ontario Agric. College, Federated Colleges, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: 1964-04-01

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