Patterns of hunting mortality in Norwegian moose (Alces alces) populations
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We used a simple life table approach to examine the age-specific patterns of harvest mortality in eight Norwegian moose populations during the last 15 years and tried to determine if the observed patterns were caused by hunter selectivity. The general opinion among local managers is that hunters prefer to shoot female moose not in company with calves to keep a high number of reproductive females in the population (and because of the emotional stress involved in leaving the calf/calves without a mother), and relatively large males because of the higher return with respect to meat and trophy. In support of the former view, we found the harvest mortality of adult females to be higher among pre-prime (1–3 years old) than prime-aged age classes (4–7 years old). This is probably because prime-aged females are more fecund and, therefore, more likely to be in company with one or two calves during the hunting season. As the season progressed, however, the selection pressure on barren females decreased, probably due to more productive females becoming ‘legal’ prey as their calf/calves were harvested. In males, we did not find any evidence of strong age-specific hunter selectivity, despite strong age-dependent variation in body mass and antler size. We suggest that this was due to the current strongly female-biased sex ratio in most Norwegian moose populations, which leaves the hunters with few opportunities to be selective within a relatively short and intensive hunting season. The management implications of these findings and to what extent the results are likely to affect the future evolution of life histories in Norwegian moose populations are discussed.