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Estimating snowshoe hare population density from pellet plots: a further evaluation

NRC Canada
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We counted fecal pellets of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) once a year in 10 areas in the southwestern Yukon from 1987 to 1996. Pellets in eighty 0.155-m2 quadrats were counted and cleared each June on all areas, and we correlated these counts with estimates of absolute hare density obtained by intensive mark–recapture methods in the same areas. There is a strong relationship between pellet counts and population density (r = 0.76), and we present a predictive log–log regression to quantify this relationship, which improves on our previously published 1987 regression, particularly at low hare densities. The precision of density estimates can be improved most easily by increasing the number of sets of quadrats in an area (one set = 80 plots), rather than increasing the number of plots counted within one set. The most important question remaining concerns the generality of this relationship for snowshoe hares living in other habitats in the eastern and southern portions of their geographic range.

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