European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 305–312 | Cite as

Space use patterns of mountain hare (Lepus timidus) on the Alps

  • Francesco BisiEmail author
  • Mosé Nodari
  • Nuno Miguel Dos Santos Oliveira
  • Elisa Masseroni
  • Damiano G. Preatoni
  • Lucas A. Wauters
  • Guido Tosi
  • Adriano Martinoli
Original Paper


Populations on the limits of species’ distribution can show different behavioral adaptations to strong ecological pressure than in the central part of the range. We investigated space use patterns of alpine mountain hare (Lepus timidus) at two areas on the southern edge of the species’ range. We monitored 34 hares between 2005 and 2008, estimating home range size, overlap, and site fidelity, and compared our results with space use in Scottish and North-European populations. Home ranges of mountain hares did not differ between two study areas with different habitat types. Subadult animals used larger ranges than adults and both age groups reduced home range size in autumn, a period that might be critical for hares due to changes in diet and/or high energy expenditure during the previous breeding season. Home ranges in these alpine populations were smaller than in Scandinavian populations but within the range of populations in different habitat types in Scotland. Seasonal home ranges overlapped considerably, but differed among the sexes: male–female overlap was higher than same sex (male–male and female–female) spatial overlap. Seasonal shifts of home ranges were small, and site fidelity remained high over the seasons, suggesting that resource distribution remained constant throughout the year and that the knowledge of an intensively frequented area is an important element of habitat quality. We concluded that habitat structure and availability of mates interact in affecting mountain hare space use in alpine habitats.


Mountain hare Home range Site fidelity Overlap Distribution edge 



We wish to thank the Sondrio Province personnel Andrea Vanotti, Maria Ferloni, and all the game wardens; the Stelvio National Park personnel Luca Pedrotti, Alessandro Gugiatti, and all the game wardens; Alessandro Bianchi for the veterinary support; A. Guizzardi, P. Bertoglio, L. Perlasca, L. Tarenghi, E. Trizio, F. Ossi, and C. Rota for assistance with fieldwork. Peter Lurz and Annabel Harrison reviewed the text and construvtive comments by two reviewers greatly helped to improve the manuscript. The study was part of the Mountain Hare Research (MoHaRe) project, carried out by University of Insubria, Varese and Istituto Oikos, Milan. Financial support was provided by the Wildlife Service of the Province of Sondrio and the Stelvio National Park.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Bisi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mosé Nodari
    • 1
  • Nuno Miguel Dos Santos Oliveira
    • 3
  • Elisa Masseroni
    • 2
  • Damiano G. Preatoni
    • 1
  • Lucas A. Wauters
    • 1
  • Guido Tosi
    • 1
  • Adriano Martinoli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Environment-Health-SafetyUniversity of Insubria VareseVareseItaly
  2. 2.Oikos Institute Via Crescenzago 1MilanItaly
  3. 3.Animal Biology Department, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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