IAB Research Project Description

Nutritional and Contaminant Assessment of Snowshoe Hares and Lynx in Gates of the Arctic National Park

Lynx (Lynx canadensis) cycles are directly linked to the cycles of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) throughout their range such that when hares decline, lynx become nutritionally stressed and also decline. In contrast, lynx and hares attain excellent condition and are able to maximize reproduction when food resources are plentiful. The ecosystem in eastern Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve near Wiseman, Alaska appears to be unique in that the hare population becomes exceedingly dense during a high compared to hare populations in adjoining areas. Despite this, subsistence users in the region reported unexpectedly low body condition and skewed sex ratios in lynx during a snowshoe hare high. Meanwhile, lynx in nearby areas performed as expected. Hares exhibit extensive geophagy of certain mineral soils in the study area which results in lethargic behavior during these highs and lynx are coincidentally thin. We propose to assess the nutritional status and level of contaminants in hares and lynx in the study area. Specifically, our objectives are to (1) Determine the levels of heavy metals in fur and liver tissues of lynx and hare, (2) Quantify the body condition of lynx and hare by measuring peritoneal fat, (3) Evaluate the reproductive status and history of female lynx, and (4) Determine the presence, abundance, and significance of pathogens in lynx and hare tissue samples.

Project Funding

National Park Service
1 Jun 2003 – 31 Dec 2004
IAB Proposal #03-104
UAF Grant #G1322
IAB Project #118

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412