European hares Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778 have lower population densities and body condition in pastural landscapes than in arable landscapes, but reasons for this are not understood. The aim of this study was to determine whether forage quality is low in pastural landscapes during certain seasons. We carried out chemical analysis of the nutritional quality of 5 habitat types to determine whether hares select high quality habitats, and whether nutritional quality explains seasonal differences in range sizes of hares in pastural landscapes. Hares did not tend to select habitats of high nutritional quality (protein, fat or energy) over those of lower quality. Hares did not increase active range size as the overall energy content of forage at the study site decreased; seasonal differences in active range size were not explained by nutritional quality. Differences may be explained by behavioural changes related to breeding. Pastural habitat is fairly stable in terms of nutritional quality through the year, and results suggest that poor forage quality is unlikely to be responsible for the poor body condition of hares in pastural landscapes. Hares in these landscapes are more likely to be limited by habitat quality in terms of cover than by forage.
|Translated title of the contribution||Vegetation quality and habitat selection by European hares Lepus europaeus in a pastural landscape|
|Pages (from-to)||391 - 404|
|Number of pages||14|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|