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Keywords:

  • grazing intensity;
  • rangeland multiple use;
  • animal behaviour;
  • animal competition;
  • disturbance

Abstract

There is very limited information concerning livestock (sheep and goats) and brown hare Lepus europaeus interaction when both coexist. The effect of the intensity of livestock grazing on seasonal habitat use by hares, in a typical Mediterranean rangeland, was evaluated using the pellet-count method. Lightly grazed pastures were less preferred by hares compared with moderately grazed ones, whereas ungrazed pastures were used less intensively than grazed ones. Because livestock grazing reduces the quantity of standing biomass proportionally to its grazing intensity, forage resource was not the driving force for pasture selection. The increased use of moderately grazed pastures by hares in relation to lightly and ungrazed ones, where vegetation was more abundant, could be attributed to their reduced herbage height and density. This behaviour is probably a tactic that hares follow for predator avoidance, because they are more likely to detect visually approaching predators when feeding in a biotope with a limited herbaceous layer. The conclusion of this research is that livestock and brown hare coexistence may be compatible and beneficial rather than competitive when stocking rates do not exceed grazing capacity, leading to the conclusion that proper livestock grazing and hare population management can be feasible in practice.