Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) are an important prey species for Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and are considered critical for lynx population persistence. Determination of snowshoe hare distribution and abundance is needed by land management agencies for lynx conservation. An accepted approach for estimating snowshoe hare abundance is the use of fecal-pellet plot counts. Locally derived regression equations are preferred for accurate calibration of pellet counts to snowshoe hare density due to local differences in pellet deposition and decomposition. We used linear regression to examine correlations between snowshoe hare density, as determined by mark–recapture estimates, and pellet plot counts on both uncleared plots and annually cleared plots on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, western Wyoming, USA. We found significant correlations between snowshoe hare density estimates and fecal pellet counts for both uncleared and annually cleared pellet counts; however, the relationship was stronger (higher r) when using pellet counts from annually cleared plots. In addition, we found that adjusting the buffer size by omitting hard habitat edges (not used by hares) around trapping grids improved correlations between snowshoe hare density and fecal pellet counts for both uncleared plots and annually cleared plots. Though precision is sacrificed when using uncleared plots, they may be useful as a coarse index of habitat use by snowshoe hares. Our derived regression equations may be useful to identify important foraging habitat for Canada lynx in western Wyoming. Land managers responsible for conserving snowshoe hare habitat in western Wyoming may use these equations to monitor changes in hare populations among habitats and during prescribed management actions.
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Vol. 74 • No. 8