Most Americans support legal hunting for food or as a population management tool, but there are strong concerns about illegal hunting activities such as poaching. Poaching may negatively impact animal populations by causing local extinctions, reducing genetic variability, reducing trophy size and hunting opportunities, and altering sex ratios and age structures. One approach to help mitigate poaching is to identify patterns of reported poaching activity and to document poaching arrests to help facilitate the efficiency of future surveillance for poachers. Our goal for this manuscript was to analyze temporal, spatial, and environmental patterns associated with poaching activity reported for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Fayette County, Iowa, USA, based on reports of poaching activity. We analyzed data from 67 reported poaching events from 2000 to 2009 and correlated these events with temporal, spatial, and environmental variables to determine trends in illegal hunting behavior. We found that poachers preferred to be active during the evening in mid- to late autumn (primarily Oct–Dec), on days with no precipitation and high visibility, and in areas next to roads, forests, and riparian cover types containing variable topography. We used these results to develop a spatially explicit map depicting hotspots of poaching activity. By identifying patterns of poaching behavior and spatially explicit prediction maps, conservation officers will be able to survey for poaching activity more efficiently. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.
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