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Research article2007Peer reviewed

The recent expansion of the brown hare (Lepus europaeus) in Sweden with possible implications to the mountain hare (L-timidus)

Jansson G, Pehrson A


The brown hare (Lepus europaeus) expanded its Swedish distribution since the 1980s northwards and locally to new areas within its former range. Of 115 brown hare populations within the former range reported in a hunter enquiry, those established after 1980 were situated higher above the sea level than older ones and higher than neighbouring (< 50 km) older populations. Reports on increased use of forest habitats by brown hares were equally frequent among recent and older populations, suggesting a process promoted solely by less harsh winters. Supposed hare hybrids were more often reported from hunting grounds with recent brown hare establishment, i.e. where the species expands in time and in space. In a 27-year dataset on brown hare observations, the recent increased use of forest habitats was supported in that maximum distances to agricultural land for brown hare sightings were higher in mild winters, whereas the proportions of the annual observations made during winter were lower. In 40-year bag records from two Swedish counties, the dynamics of the mountain hare (Lepus timidus) responded positively to snow parameters, whereas brown hares responded negatively. We suggest that the state of mountain hare populations primarily depends on winter conditions and predation pressure, whereas possible effects of hybridization are unclear. If winter conditions remain as in the last 15 years, mountain hare numbers are not likely to increase in southern Sweden, whereas the brown hare may expand even further. In either case, hybrids will occur in sympatric areas in frequencies probably related to the density of the respective true species

Published in

European Journal of Wildlife Research
2007, Volume: 53, number: 2, pages: 125-130
Publisher: SPRINGER

      SLU Authors

    • Jansson, Gunnar

      • Department of Conservation Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

      Publication identifier


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