The number of snowshoe hares in a forest is a good indicator of how healthy the ecosystem is, and scientists have now applied a new method to find out.

Daniel Thornton.

“Snowshoe hares are considered a keystone, boreal forest species and there’s been some evidence that hare populations are changing as the climate warms,” said study co-author Dan Thornton. “This study comes out as rapidly changing climatic conditions are altering our natural plant and animal communities worldwide.”

In 2019, researchers from Washington State University designed a large-scale field test to analyze the camera method while investigating the density of snowshoe hares at various forested sites on the eastern edge of the North Cascades in Washington. The experiment successfully trapped 770 snowshoe hares and collected 13,608 camera trap photos.

To determine effectiveness, the research team compared live-trapping and camera-trapping data. The study found that, overall, density estimates from the cameras had an 86 percent correlation with live trapping data. “Until now, cameras could only really tell us if the hares are there or not there,” said Thornton.

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