Native predators reduce harvest of reindeer by Sámi pastoralists


  • Corresponding Editor: J. J. Barber.


Contemporary efforts to protect biological diversity recognize the importance of sustaining traditional human livelihoods, particularly uses of the land that are compatible with intact landscapes and ecologically complete food webs. However, these efforts often confront conflicting goals. For example, conserving native predators may harm pastoralist economies because predators consume domestic livestock that sustain people. This potential conflict must be reconciled by policy, but such reconciliation requires a firm understanding of the effects of predators on the prey used by people. We used a long-term, large-scale database and Bayesian models to estimate the impacts of lynx (Lynx lynx), wolverine (Gulo gulo), and brown bear (Ursus arctos) on harvest of semi-domesticated reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) by Sámi pastoralists in Sweden. The average annual harvest of reindeer averaged 25% of the population (95% credible interval = 19, 31). Annual harvest declined by 96.6 (31, 155) reindeer for each lynx family group (the surveyed segment of the lynx population) in a management unit and by 94.3 (20, 160) for each wolverine reproduction (the surveyed segment of the wolverine population). We failed to detect effects of predation by brown bear. The mechanism for effects of predation on harvest was reduced population growth rate. The rate of increase of reindeer populations declined with increasing abundance of lynx and wolverine. The density of reindeer, latitude, and weather indexed by the North Atlantic Oscillation also influenced reindeer population growth rate. We conclude that there is a biological basis for compensating the Sámi reindeer herders for predation on reindeer.