Conservation

How hunting affects brown bear populations

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Science  19 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6373, pp. 286-287
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6373.286-a

Hunting is the leading cause of death for brown bears older than 3 years in Sweden.

PHOTO: ONDREJ PROSICKY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

In many parts of the world, regulated hunting is used to control the size of predator populations such as wolves and brown bears. Bischof et al. explore how such regulated hunting affects the life history and demography of a brown bear population in Sweden that has been monitored continuously since 1985. The study shows that hunting was the leading cause of death for bears aged more than 3 years, resulting in reduced life expectancy; this contrasts with natural conditions, where mortality is reduced once bears reach adulthood. Hunting also substantially reduces the reproductive value—that is, the number of future offspring that female bears of a given age are expected to have. Thus, even if a carnivore population recovers numerically, regulated hunting transforms its makeup in multiple ways that need to be taken into account in management.

Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2, 116 (2018).

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