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Natal dispersal of European hare in France


Y. Bray, Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, Direction de la Recherche et du Développement, Montfort, 01330 Birieux, France. Fax: (33) 04 74 98 14 11


Dispersal is a fundamental process with wide-ranging evolutionary and management consequences. To date, natal dispersal has never been described for the polygynous-promiscuous European hare Lepus europaeus. Using telemetry, we investigated the natal dispersal pattern in two zones that differed in hunting pressure and hare density. We quantified both the natal dispersal rates and distances using 84 juvenile hares. We tested for the influence of several factors (age, sex, density and period of the year) on these two variables. Overall, the mean dispersal rate was 43% and the median natal dispersal distances were 209 m for philopatric hares and 1615 m for dispersers. The maximum distance moved was 17.35 km. Natal dispersal rates were higher in the hunting zone with less density for both males and females, but males dispersed more frequently than females in the two zones although females moved over longer distances. Natal dispersal occurred preferentially between 4 and 6 months of age. This very fine description of the natal dispersal pattern allowed us to make inferences about both the evolutionary and proximate causes of natal dispersal. We also advocate that more attention should be paid to dispersal in studies on hare dynamics and on the conception of hare management, because dispersal seems to be more common than previously thought.