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Behavioural Responses of Coyotes and Lynx to the Snowshoe Hare Cycle

Mark O'Donoghue, Stan Boutin, Charles J. Krebs, Dennis L. Murray and Elizabeth J. Hofer
Oikos
Vol. 82, No. 1 (May, 1998), pp. 169-183
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3546927
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546927
Page Count: 15
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Behavioural Responses of Coyotes and Lynx to the Snowshoe Hare Cycle
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Abstract

Coyotes and lynx are the two most important mammalian predators of snowshoe hares throughout much of the North American boreal forest. Populations of hares cycle in abundance, with peaks in density occurring every 8-11 years. We used snow-tracking to measure the diets, use of habitats, and hunting tactics of coyotes and lynx during a cyclic fluctuation of hare populations in the southwest Yukon. Our objective was to determine changes in foraging behaviour of the predators leading to functional responses to densities of hares. Coyotes and lynx both preferred snowshoe hares over available alternative prey at all phases of the cycle. Lynx switched to preying on red squirrels during the cyclic low and subsequent early increase. The pattern of changes in habitat use by coyotes and lynx paralleled that of snowshoe hares, and both concentrated their hunting activity in areas of high density of hares. Coyotes used more open cover to hunt voles during years of low abundance of hares and high numbers of small mammals. Lynx increasingly used ambush beds for hunting hares and red squirrels during the cyclic decline and low. Hunting success was not higher from beds. Lynx hunted in adult groups for the first time during the cyclic decline and low.

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