Behavioral effects of living under predation risk may influence the dynamics of prey species more than direct demographic effects. Human recreation, especially hunting, can also force prey to increase their vigilance and can influence distribution and habitat use even more than natural predators. However, behavioral effects do not play a prominent role in conservation or wildlife management. Whereas the demographic consequences of hunting are documented for large carnivores, behavioral effects of hunting on their dynamics remain unexplored. We studied the movement patterns of brown bears ( Ursus arctos ) in Scandinavia as a model species, before and after the start of the annual bear hunting season. Bears were expected to become more active at daytime as the season progressed due to shortening daylight. However, the start of hunting disrupted this pattern. Solitary bears subject to hunting increased movements during the dark hours after hunting started, losing their nocturnal rest, probably to compensate for decreased daytime activity. Females with cubs-of-the-year, which are protected from hunting, also modified their movement pattern, but much less than hunted bears. Bears altered their movement pattern at a critical time of the year, during hyperphagia, when they must store fat reserves before hibernation, which is critical for reproduction. Behavioral effects of hunting should be a relevant issue for the conservation and management of large carnivores, especially when hunting occurs during highly sensitive periods of the year. This concern applies to many species managed under hunting regimes.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Aug 1, 2012
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