Habitat fragmentation often separates and reduces populations of vertebrates, but the relative effects of habitat attributes within remnant patches versus the matrix surrounding the patches are less clear. For snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) lower densities and disrupted cycles in their southern range have been ascribed to habitat fragmentation, although relevant scales of landscape influence remain unknown. In a fragmented forest in north-central Washington we counted fecal pellets of snowshoe hares to examine the extent to which relative snowshoe hare densities within stands of suitable habitat changed with the composition of surrounding habitats. Pellet densities were associated primarily with density of large shrubs and saplings and medium trees within a stand. Pellet densities also were correlated positively with the amount of moist forest (dominated by Engelmann spruce [Picea engelmannii] and subalpine fir [Abies lasiocarpa]) and correlated negatively with the amount of open-structured habitat within 300 m of the stand perimeter. These results suggest that forest managers will have positive impacts on hare densities by managing both focal stands and the surrounding stands for the higher densities of large shrubs and saplings and medium trees that hares select.
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Vol. 92 • No. 3