Is the Nature 2000 Network associated with small-game bag results?
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- Paixão, R., Godinho, S. & Santos, P. Eur J Wildl Res (2009) 55: 553. doi:10.1007/s10344-009-0274-3
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Small-game hunting is of great economic importance in Portugal. Game managers claim that game management restrictions regarding shoots inside the Nature 2000 Network negatively influence small-game bags, particularly of hare, wild rabbit and red-legged partridge. We analyse whether different habitat and game management practices are associated with game bags of those species in Alentejo (Portugal). Game bag records from five hunting seasons referring to shoots both inside and outside Nature 2000 sites were analysed. Significant differences concerning habitat and game management descriptors were found between shoots inside and outside Nature 2000 sites. However, this ecological network does not seem to correlate with hare and red-legged partridge game bags, whilst it may negatively influence wild rabbit hunting results. Considering that habitat quality for wild rabbit is rather poor inside the studied Nature 2000 sites, further investigation is needed of the possible negative influence of this ecological network on the species’ game bag. Hare game bags increase with extensive non-irrigated agricultural fields and orchards. Besides these two habitats, red-legged partridge game bags are also favoured by cork oak montado where predators are controlled. The game bags of the three small-game species studied increase with hunting effort. Further, our results suggest that there is a positive relation between hunting effort and small-game population abundance.