The European brown hare (Lepus europaeus) is an important game species throughout Europe. In Italy, for preventing the introduction of allochthonous strains, the management of brown hare populations has focused on the establishment of small protected areas (ZRCs), appositely managed for disposing of wild-born hares for restocking hunting territories. We investigated the effects of both land cover and surveillance on hare density and habitat preferences in 20 ZRCs, monitored twice per year (pre- and post-breeding periods) between 1997 and 2017. Density, as assessed by spotlight counts, ranged between 2.8 and 47.0 ind/km2 in spring and 5.0 and 68.4 ind/km2 in autumn. Surveillance, percent length of protected boundaries, year of institution and habitat diversity, as assessed by Shannon’s Index, were the main factors affecting hare density. During their foraging activity, hares selected ryegrass, hayfields and lucerne, while avoided maize stubble and ploughed fields and were never recorded in poplar plantations or next to human settlements. While the effects of habitat heterogeneity on hare density have been widely studied, we suggest that the involvement of local stakeholders may be of paramount importance for ensuring effective conservation measures.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.