Harvesting wild animals can affect demographic parameters and life history traits of surviving individuals. Most brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations currently experience low levels of hunting. We characterized mortality patterns in a heavily exploited transboundary brown bear population in Slovenia, Central Europe. Overall, 927 brown bears were reported removed from 1998 to 2008. Most (97%) removals were human caused including removals from hunting (59% of removals), management removals of problem individuals (18%), and vehicle collisions (16%). Median age of bears removed in Slovenia was 2.3 years, and 78% of bears removed were <4 years old. Removal was male-biased overall (59%), mainly due to the high percent (49%) of young (<4 years old) males removed during hunting, a possible consequence of sex-related differences in bear behavior and harvest regulations. However, the effect of sex-biased removal was less than expected based on removal data, and it appears a different harvest regimen in neighboring Croatia and sex-biased dispersal of young bears buffered the demographic effects of selective harvest in Slovenia. We also observed that annual proportion of females in harvests increased with harvest intensity. More males were removed among younger classes, whereas females started to dominate above the age of 8 years. About 20% of the brown bear population was removed annually by legal harvest; this is one of the highest harvest rates reported for this species.
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Vol. 23 • No. 1