Seasonal and altitudinal variations in diet and abundance of the European hare (Lepus europaeus Pallas) in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand : a thesis for the degree of Master of Science in Zoology at Massey University
The seasonal and altitudinal variations in diet and abundance of European hares (Lepus europaeus) in Tongariro National Park was studied from May 1977 to May 1978. The main study area situated on the northern slopes of Mt. Ruapehu, adjacent to the Bruce Road, extended from 900 m to 1600 m a.s.l. A secondary study area established on the south-western slopes, adjacent to the Ohakune Mountain Road, extended from 700 m to 1500 m a.s.l. Transects were established altitudinally at 100 m intervals. Dietary analysis was undertaken by identification of plant cuticles found within fresh faeces, collected monthly from the area surround each transect. Cuticle analysis results were supplemented by feeding using captive hares, direct field observations of browsed plant species and pellet samples from other areas within the Park. Relationships between seasonal and altitudinal variations in chemical composition and availability of plant species are discussed with reference to dietary changes. Faecal pellet density estimates were made along each transect, defecation rates of captives were determined and the affects of various factors on decomposition rate of pellets is discussed. Results of these three sections are combined to give an estimate of hare abundance. Conclusions are drawn as to the importance of various factors in determining the diet of hares within the Park.