Harvest by means of hunting is a commonly used tool in large carnivore management. To evaluate the effects of harvest on populations, managers usually focus on numerical or immediate direct demographic effects of harvest mortality on a population's size and growth. However, we suggest that managers should also give consideration to indirect and potential evolutionary effects of hunting (e.g., the consequences of a change in the age, sex, and social structure), and their effects on population growth rate. We define “indirect effects” as hunting-induced changes in a population, including human-induced selection, that result in an additive change to the population growth rate “lambda” beyond that due to the initial offtake from direct mortality. We considered 4 major sources of possible indirect effects from hunting of bears: (1) changes to a population's age and sex structure, (2) changes to a population's social structure, (3) changes in individual behavior, and (4) human-induced selection. We identified empirically supported, as well as expected, indirect effects of hunting based primarily on >30 years of research on the Scandinavian brown bear (Ursus arctos) population. We stress that some indirect effects have been documented (e.g., habitat use and daily activity patterns of bears change when hunting seasons start, and changes in male social structure induce sexually selected infanticide and reduce population growth). Other effects may be more difficult to document and quantify in wild bear populations (e.g., how a younger age structure in males may lead to decreased offspring survival). We suggest that managers of bear and other large carnivore populations adopt a precautionary approach and assume that indirect effects do exist, have a potential impact on population structure, and, ultimately, may have an effect on population growth that differs from that predicted by harvest models based on direct effects alone.
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