Cervid densities have recently increased in many parts of North America and Europe. To design sustainable harvesting strategies, a good understanding of deer population dynamics and reliable estimates of population densities are required. This is especially true on Anticosti Island, Québec, Canada, where sport hunting is the main source of income, and where long-lasting impacts of white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus on the forest ecosystem have been reported due to high deer densities. We compared white-tailed deer densities estimated in 2001 on the basis of an extensive aerial survey of 512 plots, each 3.5 km long by 60 m wide, with indices based on hunting statistics in 24 hunting zones on the island. We found a positive correlation between the number of deer seen per hunter day and the density of deer estimated by the aerial survey, but this correlation was highly influenced by the four locations with the highest densities of deer. We detected no significant correlation between deer density estimated by the aerial survey within each hunting zone and the number of deer harvested per hunter day. Our results underline the need for comparative studies addressing the validity of density indices based on hunting statistics to monitor variations in cervid population numbers.
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