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Reproduction in the european hare lepus europaeus in southern sweden

Reproduction in the european hare lepus europaeus in southern sweden

Holarctic Ecology 3(2): 74-80

Reproduction in the European hare, L. europaeus Pallas, populations was studied in 3 study areas in southern Sweden during 1974-1976; 2 on the mainland and the 3rd on the Island of Ven in Oresund. The monthly birth rates were calculated on the basis of the age of juvenile hares shot in autumn. The 1st births always occurred in Feb., indicating that the onset of the breeding season was governed by day length rather than by climate. Later, the reproduction rate was determined by temperature, snow cover and precipitation. Low temperatures in spring delayed the reproduction; high temperatures in autumn favored a prolongation of the breeding season. Low precipitation in May-July caused a decline in reproduction in July in a sandy pasture area, mainly because the water amount was low in the green forage. Annual fertility, estimated on the basis of placental scars, varied between 6.8 and 8.9 young per female. There was a significant negative correlation between fertility and population density. The largest variations were recorded in 1 yr old females, and on average the values were significantly higher in 3-yr-old females. Of all females examined, 68% had 3 litters annually; 4 litters were found in only 13% of all females. The mean litter size for the whole period was about 2.9 in all areas. The size of the 1st litter was significantly higher in females producing 1 or 2 litters than in females with 3 or 4 litters. The postnatal losses were on average 30-35% lower in the island population than in the mainland populations (73-84%), probably due to lack of predators, sparse road traffic and inhibited juvenile dispersal.

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