European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 227–238 | Cite as

Predator abundance in relation to small game management in southern Portugal: conservation implications

  • Pedro Beja
  • Luís Gordinho
  • Luís Reino
  • Filipa Loureiro
  • Margarida Santos-Reis
  • Rui Borralho
Original Paper


The interaction between hunting interests and legally protected predators is often a contentious conservation problem, requiring detailed understanding of predator responses to game management. This issue was addressed in southern Portugal in a treatment-control natural experiment, whereby the abundances of small game, corvids, birds of prey and carnivores were compared in 12 game estates (>500 ha) and 12 matching areas with similar sizes and land uses but no game management. European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Iberian hares (Lepus granatensis) and, less so, red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) were far more numerous in game estates than elsewhere. Among legally controlled species, there were less Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) but more red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in game estates, though the latter were primary targets of predator culling. Fox abundance within game estates varied inversely with an index of management intensity (density of small game feeding sites) and increased along with hare abundance. As for protected species, only common kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and genets (Genetta genetta) were fewer in game estates. The abundance of raptors within game estates varied inversely with gamekeeper density, whereas that of common buzzards (Buteo buteo) increased along with rabbit abundance. Overall, there was little evidence that game management reduced local predator abundances, except in the most intensively managed estates. Game estates provided concentrations of prey that was scarce elsewhere, which may have favoured increased abundances of some predators. Further investigations are needed to find out whether high prey densities may attract predators to game estates with increased mortality risk, which may thus become population sinks for protected species.


Hunting Birds of prey Carnivores Conservation conflict Predator control 



This study was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (PRAXIS/C/AGR/11062/1998) and Agência de Inovação. We acknowledge landowners and game managers who allowed access to their property and their willingness to provide information on their game management practices. Thanks are due to Pedro Vaz Pinto, Gonçalo Pessoa, Mário Mota, Silvia Carvalho and Sónia Domingos for help in the field work and to Robert Kenward, Beatriz Arroyo, Steve Redpath, Javier Viñuela and two anonymous referees for the critical reading of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro Beja
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luís Gordinho
    • 1
  • Luís Reino
    • 1
  • Filipa Loureiro
    • 3
  • Margarida Santos-Reis
    • 3
  • Rui Borralho
    • 1
  1. 1.ERENALisboaPortugal
  2. 2.CIBIO, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos Campus Agrário de VairãoUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal
  3. 3.Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Faculdade de Ciências, C2Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal

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