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Are farm-reared red-legged partridge releases increasing hunting pressure on wild breeding partridges in central Spain?

AuthorsCasas, Fabián; Arroyo, Beatriz ; Viñuela, Javier ; Guzmán, José Luis ; Mougeot, François
KeywordsGame releases
Hunting management
Alectoris rufa
Issue Date2016
CitationEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research 62(1): 79-84 (2016)
AbstractWild red-legged partridge populations have experienced important declines in recent decades. With an aim to increase or maintain hunting quotas, releases of farm-reared red-legged partridges have concomitantly increased. However, the sustainability of this management practice is increasingly questioned. Farm-reared partridges suffer a high mortality rate immediately after release, and many released birds may already be dead before hunting takes place. Therefore, it is possible that if hunters adjust harvest to the number of farm-reared released birds, this may lead to an overhunting of the wild breeding stocks. We investigated here whether autumn mortality by hunting of radio-tracked birds that bred in the previous summer differed between hunting estates that use or do not use releases as part of their management practices. Although our sample size was limited (32 radio-tagged birds monitored throughout the hunting season in four estates, with only one conducting releases), our results report novel data that support this cause for concern. We found that hunting was the main cause of mortality and that the proportion of hunted partridges was much higher in the estate with releases of farm-reared birds than in the three estates that did not use releases. Therefore, the release of farm-reared partridges, instead of reducing hunting pressure on the breeding stock through a potential dilution effect, may have an opposite effect. This should be confirmed with more spatial replicates, but raises serious concerns regarding the long term sustainability of wild partridge populations and their exploitation for hunting purposes in estates that overhunt partridge populations due to releases.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-015-0975-8
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s10344-015-0975-8
issn: 1612-4642
e-issn: 1439-0574
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Artículos
(EEZA) Artículos
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