Swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus) are bottomland hardwood forest specialists that may serve as useful indicators of ecosystem health. However, no studies have assessed the influence of both microhabitat and macrohabitat variables on relative abundance of swamp rabbits. To address this gap in the literature, we assessed the influence of landscape- and stand-level habitat variables on relative abundance of swamp rabbits in 29 floodplain forest sites in southern Illinois during 2006–2007. Swamp rabbits were detected at 69% of the sites surveyed. The median contiguity index of the landscape (a measure of patch size and spatial connectedness), the range in contiguity index of upland habitats, and tree stump density were positively and moderately related (w [i] = 0.381–0.475) to relative abundance of swamp rabbits. Our results emphasize the importance of large unfragmented patches of floodplain forest habitat to swamp rabbits, and confirm that continued fragmentation of remaining habitat could have detrimental effects.
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Vol. 29 • No. 2