Generally, lagomorphs are associated with early stages of plant succession because of the succulent new growth found there.
Snowshoe hares in northern hardwoods occur primarily in stands regenerated by clearcutting (Monthey 1986, Yahner et al. 1987, Scott and Yahner 1989). Hare use of recent clearcuts apparently is related to high seedling and sapling densities, abundant winter browse, and increased habitat interspersion compared to other forest stands.
Apparently young stands are used most if cover is nearby. Within a commercially clearcut forest, Monthey (1986) found that hare activity was greatest in areas where browse was nearest to cover, and least in large clearcuts with little sapling cover above the snow. Hares in West Virginia used conventional clearcuts more than wholetree clearcuts (Michael et al. 1982), probably because the slash in conventional clearcuts afforded more cover.
Rabbits make heavy use of young forests regenerated through clearcutting. In oak-hickory sites of Kentucky, cottontail rabbits were found by Woods (1989) to be more abundant in clearcut stands compared to uncut stands. Two other studies, one in central Florida and the other in Mississippi in pine plantations, found rabbit forage in clearcuts to be much more abundant than in mature forest stands (Umber and Harris 1974, McKee 1972). Clearcuts in bottomland hardwood sites in Mississippi contained more swamp rabbit forage during all seasons than did thinned or uncut forests (Smith 1986, Hurst and Smith 1987).
Burning also enhances rabbit habitat. Prescribed fire in the Alabama Piedmont was used by King et al. (1992) to produce 1- and 2-year-old roughs in a pine-hardwood forest. Far more rabbits were observed on the burned areas than the unburned control area.
Population trends for rabbits sometimes are not driven by habitat. New England cottontail response to cutting was investigated for 14 years by Storm et al. (1993) in central Pennsylvania aspen-scrub oak and mixed oak forest. Rabbit abundance appeared to be influenced by factors other than habitat. Declines coincided with statewide declines.
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