When hunting benefits raptors: a case study of game species and vultures
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- Mateo-Tomás, P. & Olea, P.P. Eur J Wildl Res (2010) 56: 519. doi:10.1007/s10344-009-0341-9
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Management of hunting activity to serve as a tool for sustainable development has become a key issue in conservation biology. However, little evidence is available showing positive impacts of hunting on ecosystem conservation, limiting its capability to be used as a conservation tool. We analysed hunting and its positive influence on the ecology and conservation of the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), a scavenger with a relevant function in the ecosystem, in the Cantabrian Mountains, NW Spain. Use of the area by vultures was addressed by looking for cliffs used as roosts or colonies, and consumption of game species by vultures was evaluated through field surveys and questionnaires to hunters. Results revealed a strong spatiotemporal adjustment in the use of the area by vultures and hunting events, especially of red deer and wild boar. Vultures occupied roosting sites very close to the main hunting sectors of these game species and often were seen consuming their carcasses. The spatiotemporal pattern of roost use by vultures strongly overlapped with hunting of red deer. The numbers of both red deer and wild boar hunting episodes within 3.5 km around the roosts were the best predictors of vulture occurrence and number. Our estimates show that hunting could feed around 1,800 vultures/6 months. Hunting can thus influence species at the top of the ecosystem (scavengers) and could aid sustainable management of griffon vulture populations, reconciling hunting and conservation. However, negative and positive impacts should be taken into account simultaneously for an overall evaluation of hunting on ecosystem conservation.