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For huntable waterbird species, the autumn migration strategy may be important for their fitness, as their behaviour and environmental factors may influence their exposure to hunting mortality. Hunting activity may also reduce the access to food resources which may be limited in the wintering areas, thereby affecting winter survival. In this study we assessed the possible influence of food resources, weather conditions, inter-specific competition and hunting intensity (as a measure of possible disturbance) on abundance and distribution of pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus at their main autumn stopover site in Norway. The results show that food resources in term of spilt cereal grain were abundant, even by the time the geese had moved on. Snow cover did not limit the food availability during the main migratory period. Inter-specific competition with greylag geese Anser anser reduced food supplies locally and appeared to be increasing. Goose hunting intensity varied among sites and our data indicate a negative relationship between hunting intensity and the rate at which geese consumed the food resources. Collectively, our results suggest that the majority of pink-footed geese leave the stopover area earlier than they would otherwise, when hunting intensities are high. In the case of pink-footed geese, population consequences of disturbance is not a concern at present; however, an international species management plan calls for 1) keeping disturbance low in areas where geese do not cause conflicts with agriculture to prevent them being pushed to areas with problems, and 2) increased harvest to reduce and stabilise the population size. Both objectives can be met by reducing hunting disturbance in mid-Norway and it is recommended that a better local organisation of hunting is implemented.
Since the mid-20th century, many European and North American goose populations have increased dramatically in numbers, causing conflict with agricultural interests in their staging and wintering areas. In some cases, to mitigate such impacts of rapid population increases, population control has been attempted by increasing harvest rate. In this study, we investigated how autumn-staging pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus responded to hunting, with a view to determine hunting practice that would lead to an increase in the hunting bag. There was a significant increase in the distance between the hunting site and the goose flocks, on comparing goose distribution on the day before the hunt up to one day after the hunt. The effect was significant when at least 10 shots were fired per site but not when 1–10 shots were fired. The timing of shooting in relation to migratory phenology did not affect the time taken by the geese to return to the hunting site, but after a hunt in the early part of the staging season, the number of geese in the study area increased more rapidly than towards the end of the season. The maximum number of geese shot per hunting event was obtained when hunting events were separated by three days. Our results indicate that hunters can increase local harvest by temporal and spatial optimisation of practices. These results may be used as a tool in wider-scale regional and international processes to regulate the population size of pink-footed geese by shooting, depending on the willingness of landowners, hunters and managers to coordinate hunting practices.
Adjustment of hunting season length is often used to regulate harvest of waterbirds but the effects are disputed. We describe the first results of season length extension on the harvest of the pink-footed goose, which has been selected as the first test case of adaptive harvest management of waterbirds in Europe. In Denmark, the season (previously 1 September to 31 December) was extended to include January in 2014–2015 with the aim to increase the harvest and, in the longer term, reduce the population size. The total harvest in Denmark increased by 52% compared to previous years, and almost 50% of the Danish harvest was taken in the January extension. In the course of the hunting season, the proportion of adults in the bag increased. In this case, the outcomes from the first extension of season suggest that season length adjustment can be an effective tool to regulate harvest, though dependent on winter weather conditions and hunters' motivation for shooting geese.
Monitoring of species using surveys of ambiguous signs and assuming 100% detectability produces potentially biased occupancy estimates. Novel analytical tools have been developed that correct for bias arising from imperfect detectability, species misidentification and spatial autocorrelation between detection survey replicates that can affect transect surveys. To date they have been applied individually, but their combined value is unclear.
The recovery of carnivores such as the European pine marten Martes martes potentially has far reaching, but largely unknown, implications for ecosystem restoration. Analysis of the species' distribution has as yet been crude and hence unsuited for informing management. We aimed to assess the validity of standard scat surveys to provide recommendations to increase inference from future surveys.
We employed spatially replicated scat surveys along forest paths in NE Scotland, genetic verification of scat provenance and occupancy modelling techniques to quantify pine marten detectability and variation therein. Detectability for 1 km and 1.5 km transects, comparable to standard protocols, was estimated to be 0.35 and 0.58 respectively, highlighting the importance of accounting for imperfect detectability. Detection probabilities decreased with vegetation cover and increased with path width. Models accounting for spatial autocorrelation between adjacent transect segments suggested that segments of ≥ 400 m could be analysed as spatial replicates with negligible bias. As is the norm, not all scats yielded DNA to genetically verify they were produced by pine marten. This was accounted for through the use of ‘miss-classification occupancy models’ which allowed the use of unverified scats, increasing detection probabilities while accounting for the probability of unverified scats being false positive detections.
This study exemplifies that robust inference on species occupancy is achievable through careful consideration of sampling design and the application of readily available analytical techniques. Adopting best-practice need not increase monitoring costs and can even increase cost-efficiency.
Wildlife managers require knowledge of population demographics, yet for low-density, wide-ranging species procuring demographic information is challenging. While accurate abundance estimates can be costly and difficult to obtain, recruitment and survival trends can be used as an alternative indicator of a population's trajectory. Physical capture has been the traditional practice for obtaining these demographic parameters, yet capture-related stress can lead to reduced levels of fitness, impaired locomotion, or even mortality for some species. Thus, noninvasive sampling methods may provide an alternative to physical capture. Population monitoring of endangered Sonoran pronghorn Antilocapra americana sonoriensis is critical for assessing the success of recovery efforts, and monitoring annual survival and recruitment by age class would provide information on the trajectory of population growth. We measured noninvasively collected Sonoran pronghorn fecal pellets collected post-fawning in Arizona, USA and matched to known age animals using fecal DNA genotyping to determine the feasibility of distinguishing age class by pellet dimensions. Based on cross-validation with logistic regression predictive models, we estimated a 98% probability of correct classification of fawn versus yearling and fawn versus adult using pellet width as a single explanatory variable. We could not, however, distinguish between yearling and adult. We additionally evaluated our ability to classify age class of fecal pellets by visual assessment only, and this approach was unreliable. Thus, we recommend measuring pellets for more accurate age classification. This measurement method is simple, relatively inexpensive, and shows potential for use in wild populations of pronghorn to discriminate fawns from other age classes. When combined with individual identification using fecal DNA, this approach could provide better knowledge of recruitment and age-specific survival for this and other species.
Ungulates that are adapted to cold climates may use bed sites as thermal refuges during summer. At the southern edge of their distribution moose Alces alces often encounter ambient summer temperatures above their upper critical temperature. Summer is also when moose increase food consumption and metabolism, which increases heat generation that must typically be lost at bed sites. To determine if moose use bed sites that enable heat loss when temperatures are hot, we randomly sampled bed sites of moose from across the entire range of ambient summer temperatures. We calculated kernel density estimates for each day and night using GPS locations collected each 20 min for an entire summer to identify bed sites. Kernel density estimates identified bed sites accurately. During the day, moose bedded under lowland forest canopies where substrates had high water content. At night, bed sites were in openings which are associated with greater browse availability and net heat loss. Lowland forests interspersed with openings should help moose to maintain thermal balance during summer. Because thermoregulatory behavior is linked with fitness, thermal refuges should be especially important in areas where moose population declines have been positively correlated with warming temperatures.
Longleaf pine savannas have declined throughout the southeastern United States due to land-use change. Fortunately, natural resource professionals are currently restoring these ecologically and economically important savannas. Although efforts are underway to restore longleaf pine savannas, little information exists on female eastern wild turkey Meleagris gallopavo silvestris population dynamics in these systems. Therefore, we evaluated survival and cause-specific mortality of female eastern wild turkeys in two longleaf pine savannas in southwestern Georgia. We radio-marked 126 female wild turkeys during 2010–2013 and monitored their survival; 66 (52.4%) radio-marked females died during the study. We estimated causes of death for 37 mortality events with predation serving as the leading known cause of mortality, with 35.1% of mortalities attributed to mesocarnivore predation (e.g., bobcat Lynx rufus, coyote Canis latrans, and gray fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and 18.9% to great-horned owl Bubo virginianus predation. One female (2.7%) was hit by a vehicle. Seasonal survival estimates varied from a high during fall (Ŝ = 0.94; 95% CI: 0.86–1.00) to a low during spring (Ŝ = 0.76; 95% CI: 0.68–0.87). Survival of incubating females was 0.82 (95% CI: 0.71–0.93) and survival of nonincubating females was 0.67 (95% CI: 0.52–0.87). Annual survival was 0.55 (95% CI: 0.44–0.67). To ensure sustainable wild turkey populations in longleaf pine savannas, we suggest managers monitor relationships between survival and population productivity.
The domestic cat Felis catus is one of the most ecologically harmful invasive species on earth. Predation by free-ranging cats poses a serious global threat to small vertebrates and is a leading source of anthropogenic mortality for birds and small mammals in North America. However, little is known about the size of cat populations, especially in urban areas where both cats and wildlife are abundant. Methods to quantify free-ranging cat populations are needed to understand the magnitude of threats facing wildlife populations and to inform decisions about prioritizing conservation and cat population management. We assessed the utility of trail cameras and sight—resight analysis for estimating free-ranging cat abundance in a small urban area (Stillwater, OK, USA). We also evaluated whether relationships exist between cat abundance and both urban development intensity and human population density. Even with relatively large cat populations, we identified the vast majority (∼96.5%) of individual cats in both day-time and night-time photos. We found no relationship between cat abundance and either urban development intensity or human population density. This finding combined with the large numbers of cats observed suggests that cats may be abundant in our study area regardless of urban context. Sampling freeranging cat populations across a broad range of urbanization intensities that capture a variety of human behaviors and/or cat management policies is needed to shed light on the drivers of cat population abundance. Trail cameras show promise as a highly useful tool for achieving this objective in the context of wildlife conservation management.