The current reestablishment and growth of beaver Castor fiber populations throughout Eurasia has created a need for methods to control population size. While lethal-trapping has been the most common harvest and control method for beaver world-wide for centuries, in recent decades spring hunting has developed as the main lethal method in Norway, Sweden and Finland. An experimental hunt where hunters annually removed 22–26% (mean = 24%) of the estimated spring population of beavers on 242 km2 in southeast Norway led to an unanticipated 46% decline in colony number after only three years. We monitored the population response in colony number throughout the ensuing four years of no hunting during which time the number of colonies rebounded by 93%. The rapid increase in colony number suggested a high rate of dispersal to vacated colony sites by animals from unexploited colonies within the study area (approximately half were unexploited each year) and from bordering townships where harvest was light at the time. Increased fecundity usually follows in the wake of a significant reduction in the density of mammal populations and most likely contributed to the rapid rebound in colony number observed. We conclude that spring hunting can be employed to significantly reduce population size when desired and that over-exploited populations may rebound quickly after hunting stops when dispersing individuals are in adequate supply from colonies both within and outside the harvested area.
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