Hunting management in relation to profitability aims: red-legged partridge hunting in central Spain
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- Arroyo, B., Delibes-Mateos, M., Díaz-Fernández, S. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2012) 58: 847. doi:10.1007/s10344-012-0632-4
Game management is widely implemented in Spain, affecting more than 70 % of land cover. Management intensity may be linked to the financial aims of hunting estates, but no study of these aspects has been developed in Spain, where commercial hunting is common. Through interviews with game managers and field surveys, we quantified physical and economic traits, management techniques, and hunting methods in a sample of 59 small-game hunting estates located in south-central Spain (where red-legged partridge hunting has the highest socioeconomic importance in the country). We compared non-commercial estates (aimed for leisure, managed mainly by local hunting societies) and commercial estates (aimed at financial benefit); among the latter, we also assessed “intensive” estates (a special category of commercial estates licensed to release farm-reared partridges without temporal or numerical limits throughout the hunting season). Commercial estates had more intensive management, including more and larger partridge releases, higher density of supplementary feeders and more intensive predator control. Thus, any positive or negative effects on biodiversity of these management techniques would be higher in commercial than in non-commercial estates. Commercial estates also retained more natural vegetation, which may help to enhance the landscape and biodiversity value of farmland in central Spain. On the other hand, differences in management and hunting styles were most marked between intensive and other type of estates (both commercial and non-commercial); this indicates that intensive estates are qualitatively different from other small-game estates, both ecologically (hunting based on releases and driven shooting) and economically (higher inputs and outputs). It would be desirable to find ways to quantify the environmental or social costs and benefits of different management techniques, and integrate them in the economics of hunting estates.