Wildlife managers often manipulate hunting regulations to control deer populations. However, few empirical studies have examined the level of hunting effort (hunter-days) required to limit population growth and demographic effects through harvesting of females. Moreover, the relative importance of density effects on population growth has not been quantified. We reconstructed a sika deer [Cervus nippon] population over a period of 12 years (1990–2001) using age- and sex-specific harvest data. Using cohort analysis, we analyzed population dynamics, focusing on 1) the relationship between hunting effort and hunting-induced mortality rate, 2) relative contributions of hunting mortality and recruitment of yearlings to annual changes in population growth rate, and 3) annual variation in recruitment rate. Population size increased until 1998 and declined thereafter. The population growth rate changed more in response to annual changes in recruitment rate than hunting mortality rate. Temporal variation in recruitment rate was not controlled by birth rate alone; direct density dependence, intensities of hunting mortality for fawns, and for females (≥2 yr of age), which accounted for the fawn survival rate, were required as factors to explain temporal variation. Density effects on the recruitment rate were not strong enough to regulate the population within the study period; high hunting mortality, with intensive female harvesting, was necessary to prevent population growth. Hunting effort was a good predictor of the hunting mortality rate, and female harvest had a negative effect on the recruitment rate through fawn survival. We suggest that >3,500 hunter-days and prioritization of female harvesting are required to prevent increases in this deer population.
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