The status of early-successional habitats and wildlife species associated with them recently has become a concern in the eastern United States. Although federal farm programs have the potential to create early-successional habitats for wildlife, relatively few studies have assessed wildlife response to these land use changes. During 2006–2007 we studied habitat factors associated with occupancy and detection of 2 species of lagomorphs, swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) and eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), in agricultural lands recently afforested via federal farm programs in southern Illinois. Lagomorphs were live captured, and habitat variables were measured at 27 bottomland sites. Detection probabilities of eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits were 0.44 (SE = 0.05) and 0.12 (SE = 0.03), respectively. Canopy closure (i (i) > 0.94) had the most influence on detection probability for both eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits. Detection probability decreased with increasing canopy closure for eastern cottontails but increased with increasing canopy closure for swamp rabbits. Eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits were estimated to occupy 80% and 71% of sites, respectively. Little support was found for habitat variables influencing site occupancy by eastern cottontails. Distance to a semipermanently flooded or intermittently exposed wetland had the most influence (w (i) = 0.54) on the probability of site occupancy by swamp rabbits. Our study provides novel information regarding use of early-successional habitats by eastern cottontails and swamp rabbits and unique insight into how habitat structure and landscape configuration affect these 2 lagomorphs.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4