Spatio-temporal ecology and habitat selection of the critically endangered tropical hare (Lepus flavigularis) in Oaxaca, Mexico
I studied the spatio-temporal ecology, habitat selection, and survival of tropical hares Lepus flavigularis in Oaxaca, Mexico. Home range size and overlap were estimated to insight into tropical hare's mating behavior and social organization. Habitat selection and survival rates were determined to identify key habitat types and cause-specific mortality for conservation actions. I radio-tracked 51 hares in a savanna of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, from February 2001 to July 2003. Annual home ranges and core areas of adults averaged 0.56 and 0.09 km2, respectively. Seasonal home ranges of adults varied from 0.22 to 1.11 km2 for females, and from 0.24 to 1.66 km2 for males. Seasonal core areas varied from 0.03 to 0.19 km2 for females, and from 0.02 to 0.20 km 2 for males. Juvenile home range varied from 0.07 to 0.49 km 2 for females, and from 0.11 to 2.64 km2 for males. Home range overlap with more than one individual suggests tropical hares show a polygamous mating behavior, and a non-territorial social organization. Hares selected home ranges with relatively more grassy and sparse shrubby habitats and less dense vegetation. Hares rested during daytime, and favored savanna with bushes of Byrsonima crassifolia that probably provided cover from predators. Hares foraged during crepuscular and nocturnal hours, and favored savanna with scattered trees of Crescentia spp. that allowed visual detection of predators. No effects of sex and season on range size or habitat selection were detected. Annual survival for adults was 0.43, and survival during the wet season (0.56) was lower than during the dry season (0.79), particularly for females. Survival of juvenile females was low during the dry (0.06) and wet (0.15) seasons when compared to juvenile males survival (0.35 and 0.48). Predation was the major cause of mortality with 67% of adult and 94% of juvenile deaths. Induced fires and poaching accounted for 20% and 13% of adult deaths, respectively. Preservation of native vegetation structure in savannas is needed for tropical hare conservation.