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Feeding preferences in dry season of the Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus) in two sites of Corsica

Gabriella Rizzardini, S. Fascetti, C. Pietri, F. Riga, C. Cosentino, P. Freschi
European journal of wildlife research 2019 v.65 no.3 pp. 43
Brachypodium sylvaticum, Briza maxima, Daucus carota, Digitaria sanguinalis, Lepus, Trifolium, diet, dry season, feces, feeding preferences, forbs, grasses, habitats, hares, shrubs, species diversity, vegetation, Corsica
In this research, the diet composition and feeding selection of the Italian hare were evaluated and compared in two sites of Haute-Corse region localised in the territories of Tallone and Aleria. The present study is the first considering feeding selection of Lepus corsicanus. The considered period ranged from June to October. Quadrat method was used to assess plant frequency, while diet composition was determined by microhistological analysis of faecal pellets collected monthly. Grasses represented the basis of the diet, with frequencies around 50% in both study areas, followed by non-leguminous forbs with an incidence of 29% in Aleria and over 31% in Tallone. Leguminous forbs and shrubs complemented its diet. Poaceae resulted to be the most preferred and selected family in the diet in both sites. In the diet, we observed 79 species, but only a few of them were in percentages greater than 5%. The most utilised species in the diet were Brachypodium sylvaticum, Briza maxima, and Trifolium angustifolium in Aleria and Digitaria sanguinalis, Briza maxima, and Daucus carota in Tallone. Our study evidenced that in the considered areas, characterised also in the dry period by wide plant diversity, the Italian hare behaved as generalist. Significant differences in the diet composition and in the diversity index between the two sites showed the adaptability of the Italian hare to different habitats and the influence of the vegetation on feeding habits of the species.