Census of the Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) at Leveste, Municipality of Gehrden, Germany

Census of the Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) at Leveste, Municipality of Gehrden, Germany

Gabor von Bethlenfalvy (Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU (FACE), Germany), Julia Hindersin (Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany) and Egbert Strauß (Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2824-3.ch011


The case study used spotlight strip census routes to estimate Brown Hare numbers in a 793 ha hunting district. The habitats, dominated by intensively farmed arable land were also mapped. This is part of a Germany-wide long-term monitoring program of game populations which is carried out by hunters and was initiated by the German Hunters’ Association and the Hunters’ Association of Lower Saxony in 2001.
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The German case study was carried out around the village of Leveste, in the municipality of Gehrden which lies in the German federate state of Lower Saxony.

Lower Saxony is divided into 22 natural categories for landscape type and topography. Leveste is located within the Calenberger Lößbörde category, which is a 684 km2 open undulating and arable landscape. The strong loess sediment makes Leveste and surrounding areas one of the most fertile soils in Central Europe and is therefore strongly shaped through agricultural activities (See Figure 1).

Figure 1.

South-West (left) and North-East (right) view of Leveste

Roe deer are widespread in the area and occur in stable to slightly increasing population densities. Wild boar and badger populations have significantly increased and are spreading as a result of increasing maize production in the agricultural landscape, with high population densities in the forest areas. The hare populations are stable after several years of strong fluctuations in specific areas. In recent years, population declines in pheasant and partridge were observed after a stable phase between 1995 and 2005. These two species occur in the intensively used agricultural landscapes only at low population densities. The fox, a major predator of small game, has high population levels. In addition to the native wild species, the introduced raccoon and raccoon-dog are spreading rapidly.


Mapping Project

The subject of the local case study was the spotlight strip censuses of the brown hare (Lepus europaeus), and the mapping of the agricultural land use on a reference area of 792,8 hectares in size within the hunting district in Leveste. The area was representative for the open landscape of Leveste. The censuses were carried out by three local hunters. The agricultural land use was categorised into main cultivation types (See Figure 2).

Figure 2.

The Leveste hunting district schematically representing agricultural land uses

The hare population was counted on three separate dates along a pre-defined route (See Figure 3). The strip censuses were conducted during night time from a slow moving vehicle with the help of a spotlight. Guidelines from the German monitoring programme “WILD” (German wildlife information system - www.jagdnetz.de/wild) were applied (Deutscher Jagdschutz-Verband 2003) in order to have a standardized counting method.

Figure 3.

Pre-defined strip census routes (approx. 20 km) for counting Brown Hare

The local brown hare spotlight strip censuses fed into a wider monitoring programme within Lower Saxony called “WTE” (Wildtiererfassung in Niedersachsen, Small Game Survey in Lower Saxony - www.wildtiermanagement.com), which was previously initiated by the hunters association of Lower Saxony (LJN) in 1991 and is scientifically accompanied by the Institute of Wildlife Research (Strauß & Pohlmeyer 2001). It is funded from income for hunting rights. Through the WTE, the case study provided data for a nationwide German monitoring programme WILD, which was initiated in 2001 on behalf of the German Hunting Association (DJV) and its federate state hunting associations.

For WTE and WILD, the hare census is carried out bi-annually in spring (March and April), when the crop is not too high and in autumn (October- December), after the harvest and the reproduction period of the hare. The WTE covers 10-20 hunting districts throughout Lower Saxony and WILD around 500 hunting districts throughout Germany (Strauß et al. 2008). Censuses all take place on the same days across the country.

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