Moose harvesting strategies in the presence of wolves
Nils Chr. Stenseth, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway (e-mail email@example.com).
- 1Large carnivores are currently recolonizing areas where they have been extinct for decades. This poses considerable challenges for wildlife managers, partly because the optimal harvesting strategies of prey populations may be affected. If the carnivores in such areas are under strict management control (as in Scandinavia), the predator will not show a numerical response to changes in prey density. Consequently, the density of prey is mainly determined by the vital rates of the prey population and the predation pressure. In this study we modelled the optimal harvesting strategy for a prey population in which there was no numerical response by the predator.
- 2Our model is an age-structured deterministic matrix model system. Optimal harvesting strategies are determined, measuring yield either as number of animals harvested or as mass of meat.
- 3First, using a moose population in Hedmark in south-eastern Norway as a case study, we demonstrate that continuing to harvest at the rates used prior to wolf recolonization will lead to a decline in the moose population.
- 4Secondly, harvesting quotas are specified by age and sex, usually with a high proportion of calves. Although wolves mainly kill juvenile moose (calves and yearlings), the relationship between harvest composition and yield is not affected by predation. Both in the presence and absence of predation, a high proportion of calves in the harvest gives the highest yield measured as the number of animals harvested, whereas a high proportion of adults maximizes the yield measured in terms of meat. Furthermore, a female-biased sex structure in the population gives a higher yield in both the presence and absence of the predator.
- 5Synthesis and applications. We have shown that managers facing the new challenges presented by recolonizing populations of large predators such as wolves should reduce the size of harvest quotas in order to avoid decreases in prey populations. However, the general relationship between the harvesting strategy and yield maximization is not affected by wolf predation. The harvest yield from cervid populations is often important to local economies, and moose is the single most important game species in Scandinavia. It is therefore important to implement optimal harvesting strategies under these new conditions in order to prevent an unnecessary loss of yield, and success in this task may in turn affect local attitudes towards large carnivores.