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Estimating Sustainable Harvest Rates for European Hare (Lepus Europaeus) Populations

1
Institute of Wildlife Biology and Game Management, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Gregor-Mendel-Str. 33, 1180 Vienna, Austria
2
Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution, Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Savoyenstr. 1, 1160 Vienna, Austria
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2837; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102837 (registering DOI)
Received: 21 March 2019 / Revised: 7 May 2019 / Accepted: 12 May 2019 / Published: 18 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Natural Resource Management)
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Abstract

Hunting quotas are used to manage populations of game species in order to ensure sustainable exploitation. However, unpredictable climatic events may interact with hunting. We established a population model for European hares (Lepus europaeus) in Lower Austria. We compared the sustainability of voluntary quotas used by hunters—which are derived from hare-specific guidelines—with the actual numbers of hares shot and our recommended quotas for hares, which have been derived from climate and population modeling. We used population modeling based on vital rates and densities to adjust our recommended quotas in order to achieve sustainable harvest. The survival of age classes 1 and 3 had the highest impact on the population growth rate. Population viability analysis showed that a recommended quota with a harvest rate of 10% was sustainable for population densities of 45 hares/km2, and that the threshold for hunting should be raised from 10 hares/km2 so that hare populations with <15 hares/km2 are not hunted. The recommended quota outperformed the voluntary hunting quota, since more hares could be harvested sustainably. Age Class 1 survival was strongly linked with weather: a single year with unfavorable weather conditions (low precipitation) negatively affected population densities. Game species, including the European hare, face increasingly frequent weather extremes due to climate change, so hunting quotas need to be sensitive to frequent population fluctuations. View Full-Text
Keywords: extreme climate events; hunting regulations; Lagomorpha; population dynamics; hunting bag analysis; spotlight count extreme climate events; hunting regulations; Lagomorpha; population dynamics; hunting bag analysis; spotlight count
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Schai-Braun, S.C.; Kowalczyk, C.; Klansek, E.; Hackländer, K. Estimating Sustainable Harvest Rates for European Hare (Lepus Europaeus) Populations. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2837.

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