We explore some of the consequences of harvest on population growth rate, age and sex structure in a Norwegian population of red deer Cervus elaphus, using age-structured demographic models. Survival rates were estimated from individuals marked and monitored annually during 1977–1995, and information about reproduction patterns were obtained from hunting material in the same region. The population had an actual doubling time of 14 years, corresponding to a multiplication rate of 1.051. Harvesting led to a reduction of about 10% of the potential multiplication rate that equalled 1.166. Including stochasticity had only a small effect on the population multiplication rate. Due to a high hunting pressure, males had less than a 10% chance of reaching 4.5 years of age and the male-biased harvest strongly biased the sex ratio. Assuming that when the number of females per male increases above a given threshold some females would not manage to mate, we investigated at which level male harvesting could be maintained without having demographic consequences on the population growth rate. We concluded that the hunting pressure on males could probably be increased further but indirect consequences of a strongly biased sex ratio (e.g. on population genetic structure) remain to be studied. Variation in the multiplication rate mainly resulted from the variation in winter calf survival. In its present form the harvesting regime reduces the growth rate and biases the sex and age structure, but does not seem to threaten the population's viability and productivity.
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Vol. 5 • No. 1