In the southern Rocky Mountains, USA, snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and mountain cottontails (Sylvilagus nuttallii) are syntopic. Previous researchers used size of fecal pellets to identify leporid species in the Southern Rockies, a common criterion for identifying species of cervids. We measured 655 fecal pellets from 10 mountain cottontails and 2,374 fecal pellets from 23 snowshoe hares. We found no relationship between the body weight of mountain cottontails and the size of their fecal pellets (r = 0.04, F = 0.01, P = 0.91) but found one for snowshoe hares (r = 0.48, F = 9.3, P = 0.005). Although the 2 species differed in the size of their fecal pellets, the difference between means (1.2 mm) was sufficiently small to require measuring individual pellets and is only applicable to individuals of adult size. Although fecal pellet counts may be used to estimate presence and relative abundance of snowshoe hares in the absence of syntopic leporids, where multiple species of leporids are syntopic this method may yield misleading results.
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Vol. 71 • No. 6