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Effects of selection cuts on winter habitat use of snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) in northern temperate forests

Simard, Véronique, Imbeau, Louis, Asselin, Hugo
Canadian journal of forest research 2018 v.48 no.9 pp. 1049-1057
Lepus americanus, canopy, cutting, feces, habitat preferences, habitats, hardwood, hardwood forests, logging, models, shrubs, temperate forests, Quebec
Selection cutting is used in northern temperate forests where regeneration dynamics are driven by gap formation. By creating openings in the canopy, selection cutting modifies shrub cover, an important criterion in winter habitat selection by snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus Erxleben, 1777), a key species in North American forests. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of selection cuts on snowshoe hare habitat and to evaluate the restoration of habitat quality over time. Occurrence indices for snowshoe hare (fecal pellets and tracks) were modelled according to habitat quality parameters for 22 hardwood stands that were subjected to selection cutting between 1993 and 2007 and 30 untreated stands (15 hardwood and 15 mixedwood) in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Quebec. Model selection based on the Akaike second-order information criterion (AICc) identified lateral cover as the only habitat structure parameter having a positive effect on snowshoe hare abundance in the study sites. Indicators of snowshoe hare presence were highest in untreated mixedwood stands but more abundant in selection cuts than in untreated hardwood stands. The use of selection cuts by snowshoe hare increased with time since logging was performed. We conclude that selection cutting exerted a positive effect on the use of hardwood stands by snowshoe hare.