Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Baker PJ, Harris S (2006) Does culling reduce fox (Vulpes vulpes) density in commercial forests in Wales, UK. Eur J Wildl Res 52:99–108. doi:10.1007/s10344-005-0018-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baines D, Moss R, Dugan D (2004) Capercaillie breeding success in relation to forest habitat and predator abundance. J Appl Ecol 41:59–71. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2004.00875.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barea-Azcón JM, Virgós E, Ballesteros-Duperón E, Moleón M, Chirosa M (2007) Surveying carnivores at large spatial scales: a comparison of four broad-applied methods. Biodivers Conserv 16:1213–1230. doi:10.1007/s10531-006-9114-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bibby CJ, Burgess ND, Hill DA, Mustoe S (2000) Bird census techniques, 2nd edn. Academic, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Borralho R, Rego F, Pinto PV (1996a) Is driven transect sampling suitable for estimating red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa densities. Wildl Biol 2:259–268

    Google Scholar 

  • Borralho R, Rego F, Palomares F, Hora A (1996b) The distribution of the Egyptian mongoose Herpestes ichneumon (L.) in Portugal. Mammal Rev 26:1–8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.1996.tb00143.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borralho R, Rito A, Rego F, Simões H, Pinto PV (1998) Summer distribution of Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa in relation to water availability on Mediterranean farmland. Ibis 140:620–625. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1998.tb04707.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burfield I, van Bommel FPJ (2004) Birds in Europe: populations estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Carvalho J, Castro-Pereira D, Capelo M, Borralho R (1998) Red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) restocking programs: their success and implications on the breeding population. Gib Faune Sauv 15:465–474

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences, 2nd edn. Lawrence Erlbaum, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • Costa L, Nunes M, Geraldes P, Costa H (2003) Zonas Importantes para as Aves em Portugal. Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, Lisboa

    Google Scholar 

  • Côté IM, Sutherland WJ (1997) The effectiveness of removing predators to protect bird populations. Conserv Biol 11:395–405. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1997.95410.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Delibes-Mateos M, Redpath SM, Angulo E, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R (2007) Rabbits as keystone species in southern Europe. Biol Conserv 137:149–156. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.01.024

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Delibes-Mateo M, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R (2008a) Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) abundance and protected areas in central-southern Spain: why they do not match? Eur J Wildl Res. doi:10.1007/s10344-008-0216-5

  • Delibes-Mateo M, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R (2008b) Rabbit populations and game management: the situation after 15 years of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in central-southern Spain. Biodivers Conserv 17:559–574. doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9272-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duarte J, Vargas JM (2001) Son selectivos los controles de predadores en los cotos de caza? Galemys 13:1–9

    Google Scholar 

  • Etheridge B, Summers RW, Green RE (1997) The effects of illegal killing and destruction of nests by humans on the population dynamics of the hen harrier Circus cyaneus in Scotland. J Appl Ecol 34:1081–1105. doi:10.2307/2405296

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ferrer M, Negro JJ (2004) The near extinction of two large European predators: super specialists pay a price. Conserv Biol 18:344–349. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00096.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garzón J (1974) Contribución al estudio del estatus, alimentación y protección de las Falconiformes en España Central. Ardeola 19:279–330

    Google Scholar 

  • Gortázar C, Villafuerte R, Martín M (2000) Success of traditional restocking of red-legged partridge for hunting purposes in areas of low density of Northeast Spain. Z Jagdwiss 46:23–30. doi:10.1007/BF02240661

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gortázar C, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R, Martín M, Blanco JC (2003) Habitat related differences in age structure and reproductive parameters of red foxes. Acta Theriol (Warsz) 48:93–100

    Google Scholar 

  • Graham K, Beckerman AP, Thirgood S (2005) Human–predator–prey conflicts: ecological correlates, prey losses and patterns of management. Biol Conserv 122:159–171. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.06.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green RE, Etheridge B (1999) Breeding success of the hen harrier Circus cyaneus in relation to the distribution of grouse moors and the red fox Vulpes vulpes. J Appl Ecol 36:472–483. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.1999.00419.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hakkarainen H, Korpimäki E (1996) Competitive and predatory interactions among raptors: an observational and experimental study. Ecology 77:1134–1142. doi:10.2307/2265582

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harding EK, Doak DF, Albertson JD (2001) Evaluating the effectiveness of predator control. The non-native red fox as a case study. Conserv Biol 15:1114–1122. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2001.0150041114.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Iborra O, Lumaret JP (1997) Validity limits of the pellet group counts in wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Mammalia 61:205–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kauhala K, Helle P, Helle E, Korhonen J (1999) Impact of predator removal on predator and mountain hare populations in Finland. Ann Zool Fenn 36:139–148

    Google Scholar 

  • Kauhala K, Helle P, Helle E (2000) Predator control and the density and reproductive success of grouse populations in Finland. Ecography 23:161–168. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2000.tb00271.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mañosa S, Real J, Codina J (1998) Selection of settlement areas by juvenile Bonelli’s eagle in Catalonia. J Raptor Res 32:208–214

    Google Scholar 

  • Martínez J, Viñuela J, Villafuerte R (2002) Socio-economic aspects of gamebird hunting, hunting bags and assessment of the status of gamebird populations in REGHAB countries. Part 1: Socio-economic and cultural aspects of gamebird hunting. Report on Workpackage 1 of the European Project REGHAB N° EKV-2000-00637

  • McDonald RA, Harris S (2002) Population biology of stoats Mustela erminea and weasels Mustela nivalis on game estates in Great Britain. J Appl Ecol 39:793–805. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00757.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Messmer TA, Brunson MW, Reiter D, Hewitt DG (1999) United States public attitudes regarding predators and their management to enhance avian recruitment. Wildl Soc Bull 27:75–85

    Google Scholar 

  • Newton I (1993) Predation and limitation of bird numbers. Curr Ornith 11:143–198

    Google Scholar 

  • Oldfield TEE, Smith RJ, Harrop SR, Leader-Williams N (2003) Field sports and conservation in the United Kingdom. Nature 423:531–533. doi:10.1038/nature01678

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Palma L, Onofre N, Pombal E (1999) Revised distribution and status of diurnal birds of prey in Portugal. Avocetta 23:3–18

    Google Scholar 

  • Palomares F, Delibes M (1993) Key habitats for Egyptian mongooses in Doñana National Park, South-Western Spain. J Appl Ecol 30:752–758. doi:10.2307/2404253

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Palomares F, Gaona P, Ferreras P, Delibes M (1995) Positive effect on game species of top predators by controlling smaller predator populations: an example with lynx, mongooses, and rabbits. Conserv Biol 9:295–305. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1995.9020295.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Revilla E, Palomares F, Delibes M (2001) Edge-core effects and the effectiveness of traditional reserves in conservation: Eurasian badgers in Doñana National Park. Conserv Biol 15:148–158. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2001.99431.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds JC, Tapper SC (1996) Control of mammalian predators in game management and conservation. Mammal Rev 26:127–156. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.1996.tb00150.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds JC, Angelstam P, Redpath S (1988) Predators, their ecology and impact on gamebird populations. In: Hudson PJ, Rands MRW (eds) Ecology and management of gamebirds. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 72–97

    Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds JC, Goddard HN, Brockless MH (1993) The impact of local fox (Vulpes vulpes) removal on fox populations at two sites in southern England. Gib Faune Sauv 10:319–334

    Google Scholar 

  • Sergio F, Blas J, Forero M, Fernández N, Donázar JA, Hiraldo F (2005) Preservation of wide-ranging top predators by site-protection: black and red kites in Doñana National Park. Biol Conserv 125:11–21. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2005.03.002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor BL, Gerrodette T (1993) The uses of statistical power in conservation biology—the Vaquita and Northern Spotted Owl. Conserv Biol 7:489–500. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1993.07030489.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thirgood S, Redpath S, Newton I, Hudson P (2000) Raptors and red grouse: conservation conflicts and management solutions. Conserv Biol 14:95–104. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2000.99013.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Temple HJ, Terry A (2007) The status and distribution of European mammals. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg

    Google Scholar 

  • Turner AS, Conner LM, Cooper J (2008) Supplemental feeding of northern bobwhites affects red-tailed hawk spatial distribution. J Wildl Manage 72:428–432. doi:10.2193/2006-303

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valkama J, Korpimäki E, Arroyo B, Beja P, Bretagnolle V, Bro E, Kenward R, Mañosa S, Redpath SM, Thirgood S, Viñuela J (2005) Birds of prey as limiting factors of gamebird populations in Europe: a review. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 80:171–203. doi:10.1017/S146479310400658X

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Villafuerte R, Viñuela J, Blanco JC (1998) Extensive predator persecution caused by population crash in a game species: the case of red kites and rabbits in Spain. Biol Conserv 84:191–188. doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(97)00094-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Viñuela J (1997) Road transects as a large-scale census method for raptors: the case of the Red Kite Milvus milvus in Spain. Bird Study 44:155–165

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Viñuela J, Villafuerte R (2004) Predators and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in Spain: a key conflict for European raptor conservation. In: Thompson DBA, Redpath S, Fielding AH, Marquiss M, Galbraith CA (eds) Bird of prey in a changing environment. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, pp 511–526

    Google Scholar 

  • Virgós E, Travaini A (2005) Relationship between small-game hunting and carnivore diversity in Central Spain. Biodivers Conserv 14:3475–3486. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-0823-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Virgós E, Tellería JL, Santos T (2002) Effects of geographic location, vegetation type, isolation and fragment features on the richness and occurrence of medium-sized mammals in forest fragments of central Spain. Biodiv Cons 11:1063–1079. doi:10.1023/A:1015856703786

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitfield DP, McLeod DRA, Watson J, Fielding AH, Haworth PF (2003) The association of grouse moor in Scotland with the illegal use of poisons to control predators. Biol Conserv 114:157–163. doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00019-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson DE, Cole FR, Nichols JD, Rudran R, Foster M (1996) Measuring and monitoring biological diversity—standard methods for mammals. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  • Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis, 4th edn. Prentice-Hall, London

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pedro Beja.

Additional information

Communicated by C. Gortázar

Appendix

Appendix

Table 3 Small game and predator species sampled in 12 pairs of matching game and control estates in southern Portugal (2001 and 2001)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Beja, P., Gordinho, L., Reino, L. et al. Predator abundance in relation to small game management in southern Portugal: conservation implications. Eur J Wildl Res 55, 227–238 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-008-0236-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-008-0236-1

Keywords

  • Hunting
  • Birds of prey
  • Carnivores
  • Conservation conflict
  • Predator control