In common with other farmland species, hares (Lepus spp.) are in widespread decline in agricultural landscapes due to agricultural intensification and habitat loss. We examined the importance of habitat heterogeneity to the Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus) in a pastoral landscape. We used radio-tracking during nocturnal active and diurnal inactive periods throughout one year. In autumn, winter and spring, hares occupied a heterogeneous combination of improved grassland, providing food, and Juncus-dominated rough pasture, providing refuge. In summer, hares significantly increased their use of improved grassland. This homogeneous habitat can fulfil the discrete and varied resource requirements of hares for feeding and shelter at certain times of year. However, improved grassland may be a risky habitat for hares as silage harvesting occurs during their peak birthing period of late spring and early summer. We therefore posit the existence of a putative ecological trap inherent to a homogeneous habitat of perceived high value that satisfies the hares' habitat requirements but which presents risks at a critical time of year. To test this hypothesis in relation to hare populations, work is required to provide data on differential leveret mortality between habitat types.
- Grassland management
- Home ranging behaviour
- Irish hare
- Lepus timidus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation