, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 53-62

Hare and vole browsing preferences during winter

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Abstract

The aim with this study was to, under controlled conditions, determine the food preference of mountain haresLepus timidus Linnaeus, 1758 and bank volesClethrionomys glareolus (Schreber, 1780) for a substantial part of the woody plants potentially available for these herbivores during winter. In addition, we compared hare and vole preference patterns. Thirteen woody plant species were simultaneously presented to 9 captive voles and 9 captive hares in preference tests during winter. Consumption by hares from 50 g bundles (one per species) was measured after 3 h, whereas shoot consumption by voles was measured after 12 h. Both hares and voles preferred deciduous species to conifers,Populus tremula, andVaccinium myrtillus being the most preferred species. However, there was considerable variation in palatability among deciduous plant species and only a marginally significant correlation was found between hare and vole preference. One striking differences between hares and voles was that Sorbusaucuparia was the most utilised by voles but the least preferred by hares. In conclusion, deciduous plant species were generally considerably more palatable to hares and voles than conifers, which is consistent with current theories. Nevertheless, the high variation in palatability among deciduous trees and the difference in preference between hares and voles indicate more complex and species-specific patterns with regard to plant— animal interactions. The latter also suggests that hares and voles differ in their dietary adaptations and have different dietary constrains.

Associate Editor was Krzysztof Schmidt.