The Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus) is an endemism of Central-Southern Italy and Sicily, classified as vulnerable (C2a1 category) according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The status of the species is affected mainly by habitat fragmentation, low population density, as well as the presence of small and isolated subpopulations. Moreover, the Italian hare is also threatened by ecological competition with native and exotic lineages of the European hare (Lepus europaeus), a cosmopolitan species intensively restocked as a game species.
To broaden the knowledge on the ecological and environmental requirements of the Italian hare represents an effective support for fit management actions in conservation planning.
We use a non-invasive approach on faecal pellets collected in field to study distribution of the species, the environmental variables affecting its habitat preferences (employed habitat suitability models implemented in GIS environment) and its food requirement (using DNA metabarcoding and High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) strategy), all together aimed at defining ecological characteristics of the Italian hare.