Skip to main content

The tragedy of the commons: unsustainable population structure of Iberian red deer in hunting estates

Abstract

Hunting can influence population structure with consequences in ecological and evolutionary processes. Populations of Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus) in Spain occur under two different management regimes: fenced and unfenced (open) estates. We compared census data, hunting bags and data from hunted individuals between both types of estates. Harvest on stags was moderate in fenced estates but strong in open ones, probably due to the competition between neighbouring landowners over the same deer populations. On the contrary, female culling was low in open estates compared to fenced ones. As a result, populations in open estates have mostly young males and strongly female-biased sex ratios. Female-biased population structure in open estates did not result in higher number of males being harvested per year compared with fenced estates, probably due to negative effects on development, survival and reproduction, and harvested males were younger, and hence, with smaller antlers. There is published evidence for undesirable effects of biased population sex ratio and age structure in these red deer populations. Our results indicate that this type of management may be unsustainable and recommend that harvest on males in open estates should be reduced and that on females increased, in order to maintain a more balanced population structure that may allow sustainable population dynamics and the operation of natural evolutionary processes.

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

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Allendorf FW, England PR, Luikart G, Ritchie PA, Ryman N (2008) Genetic effects of harvest on wild animal populations. Trends Ecol Evol 23:327–337

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Andersson M (1994) Sexual Selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • Beddington JR (1974) Age structure, sex ratio and population density in the harvesting of natural animal populations. J Appl Ecol 11:915–624

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bonenfant C, Gaillard J-M, Klein F, Loison A (2002) Sex- and age dependent effects of population density on life history traits of red deer Cervus elaphus in a temperate forest. Ecography 25:446–458

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bugalho MN, Milne JA (2003) The composition of the diet of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in a Mediterranean environment: a case of summer nutritional constraint? For Ecol Manag 181:23–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bunnell FL (1982) The lambing period of mountain sheep: synthesis, hypothesis, and tests. Can J Zool 60:1–14

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cameron TC, Benton TG (2004) Stage-structured harvesting and its effects: an empirical investigation using soil mites. J Anim Ecol 73:996–1006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carranza J, Alarcos S, Sánchez-Prieto CB, Valencia J, Mateos C (2004) Disposable-soma senescence mediated by sexual selection in an ungulate. Nature 432:215–218

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caughley G (1966) Mortality patterns in mammals. Ecology 47(6):906–918

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Albon SD (1989) Red deer in the Highlands. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Guinness FE, Albon SD (1982) Red deer. Behaviour and ecology of two sexes. Edinburgh Univ, Press

    Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Albon SD, Guinness FE (1985a) Parental investment and sex differences in juvenile mortality in birds and mammals. Nature 313:131–133

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Major M, Guinness FE (1985b) Population regulation in male and female red deer. J Anim Ecol 54:831–846

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Major M, Albon SD, Guinness FE (1989) Early development and population dynamics in red deer. I. Density-dependent effects on juvenile survival. J Anim Ecol 56:53–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Rose KE, Guinness FE (1997) Density-related changes in sexual selection in red deer. Proc R Soc Lond B 264:1509–1516

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clutton-Brock TH, Coulson TN, Milner-Gulland EJ, Thomson D, Armstrong HM (2002) Sex differences in emigration and mortality affect optimal management of deer populations. Nature 415:633–637

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coltman DW, O’Donoghue P, Jorgenson JT, Hogg JT, Strobeck C, Festa-Bianchet M (2003) Undesirable evolutionary consequences of trophy hunting. Nature 426:655–658

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conradt L, Clutton-Brock TH, Thomson D (1999) Habitat segregation in ungulates: are males forced into suboptimal foraging habitats through indirect competition by females? Oecologia 119:367–377

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coulson T, Albon SD, Guinness FE, Pemberton JM, Clutton-Brock TH (1997) Population substructure, local density, and calf winter survival in red deer (Cervus elaphus). Ecology 78:852–863

    Google Scholar 

  • Coulson T, Catchpole EA, Albon SD, Morgan BJT, Pemberton JM, Clutton-Brock TH, Crawley MJ, Grenfell BT (2001) Age, sex, density, winter weather, and population crashes in Soay sheep. Science 292:1528–1531

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crawford VP (1990) On the Definition of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy in the “Playing the Field” Model. J Theor Biol 143:269–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crawford VP (1991) An “Evolutionary” Interpretation of Van Huyck, Battalio, and Beil’s Experimental Results on Coordination. Game Econ Behav 3:25–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Festa-Bianchet M (1988) Birthdate and lamb survival in bighorn lambs (Ovis canadensis). J Zool 214:653–661

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Foley AM, DeYoung RW, Lukefahr SD, Hewitt DG, Lewis JS, Hellickson MW (2012) Repeatability of antler characteristics in mature male white-tailed deer in south Texas: Consequences of environmental effects. J Mamm 93:1149–1157

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fryxell JM, Hussell DJT, Lambert AB, Smith PC (1991) Time lags and population fluctuations in white-tailed deer. J Wildl Manag 55:377–385

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaillard J-M, Sempere AJ, Boutin J-M, Van Laere G, Boisaubert B (1992) Effects of age and body weight on the proportion of females breeding in a population of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Can J Zool 70:1541–1545

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaillard J-M, Festa-Bianchet M, Yoccoz NG (1998) Population dynamics of large herbivores: variable recruitment with constant adult survival. Trends Ecol Evol 13:58–63

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaillard J-M, Festa-Bianchet M, Yoccoz NG, Loison A, Toigo C (2000) Temporal variation in fitness components and population dynamics of large herbivores. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 31:367–393

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gaillard J-M, Festa-Bianchet M, Yoccoz NG (2001) Not all sheep are equal. Science 292:1499–1500

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ginsberg JR, Milner-Gulland EJ (1994) Sex biased harvesting and population dynamics in ungulates: implications for conservation and sustainable use. Conserv Biol 8:157–166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glucksman A (1974) Sexual dimorphism in mammals. Biol Rev 49:423–475

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hardin G (1968) The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162:1243–1248

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holand Ø, Røed KH, Mysterud A, Kumpula JM, Nieminen M, Smith ME (2002) The effect of sex ratio and male age structure on reindeer calving. J Wildl Manag 67:25–33

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holand Ø, Mysterud A, Røed KH, Coulson T, Gjøstein H, Weladji RB, Nieminen M (2006) Adaptive adjustment of offspring sex ratio and maternal reproductive effort in an iteroparous mammal. Proc R Soc Lond B 273:293–299

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jorgenson JT, Festa-Bianchet M, Gaillard J-M, Wishart WD (1997) Effects of age, sex, disease and density on survival of bighorn sheep. Ecology 78:1019–1032

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lahti DC, Johnson NA, Ajie BC, Otto SP, Hendry AP, Blumstein DT, Cos RG, Donohue K, Foster SA (2009) Relaxed selection in the wild. Trends Ecol Evol 24(9):487–496

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Langvatn R, Loison A (1999) Consequences of harvesting on age structure, sex ratio and population dynamics of red deer Cervus elaphus in central Norway. Wildl Biol 5:213–223

    Google Scholar 

  • Leberg PL, Smith MH (1993) Influence of density on growth of white-tailed deer. J Mammal 74:723–731

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loison A, Gaillard J-M, Pélabon C, Yoccoz NG (1999) What factors shape sexual dimorphism in ungulates? Evol Ecol Res 1:611–633

    Google Scholar 

  • Martínez M, Rodriguez-Vigal C, Jones OR, Coulson T, San Miguel A (2005) Different hunting strategies select for different weights in red deer. Biol Lett 1:353–356

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maynard Smith J (1982) Evolution and the Theory of Games. Cambridge University Press

  • Miller KV, Marchinton RL (1995) Quality Whitetails: The why and how of Quality Deer Management. Stackpole Books

  • Milner JM, Nilsen EB, Andreassen HP (2007) Demographic side effects of selective hunting in ungulates and carnivores. Conserv Biol 21:36–47

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell B (1967) Growth layers in dental cement food for determining the age of red deer (Cervus elaphus L.). J Anim Ecol 36:279–293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Monteith KL, Long RA, Bleich VC, Heffelfinger JR, Krausman PR, Bowyer RT (2013) Effects of harvest, culture, and climate on trends in size of horn-like structures in trophy ungulates. Wildl Monogr 183:1–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mysterud A (2011) Selective harvesting of large mammals: How often does it result in directional selection? J Appl Ecol 48:827–834

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mysterud A, Holand Ø, Røed KH, Gjøstein H, Kumpula J, Nieminen M (2003) Effects of age, density and sex ratio on reproductive effort in male reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). J Zool (Lond) 261:341–344

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ostrom E (1990) “Governing the Commons. The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action”. Cambridge University Press

  • Owen-Smith N (1993) Comparative mortality rates of male and female kudus: the costs of sexual dimorphism. J Anim Ecol 62:428–440

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pérez-González J, Carranza J (2009) Female-biased dispersal under conditions of low male mating competition in a polygynous mammal. Mol Ecol 18:4617–4630

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pérez-González J, Mateos C, Carranza J (2009) Polygyny can increase rather than decrease genetic diversity contributed by males relative to females: evidence from red deer. Mol Ecol 18:1591–1600

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pérez-González J, Barbosa AM, Carranza J, Torres-Porras J (2010) Relative effect of food supplementation and natural resources on female red deer distribution in a Mediterranean ecosystem. J Wildl Manag 74(8):1701–1708

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reimers E (1983) Reproduction in wild reindeer in Norway. Can J Zool 61:211–217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sæther B-E, Solberg EJ, Heim M (2003) Effects of altering sex ratio structure on the demography of an isolated moose population. J Wildl Manag 67:455–466

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sæther B-E, Solberg EJ, Heim M, Stacy JE, Jakobsen KS, Olstad R (2004) Offspring sex ratio in moose Alces alces in relation to paternal age: an experiment. Wildl Biol 10:51–57

    Google Scholar 

  • Singer FJ, Zeingenfuss LC (2002) Influence of trophy hunting and horn size on mating behavior and survivorship of mountain sheep. J Mammal 83:682–698

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Skogland T (1985) The effects of density-dependent resource limitations on the demography of wild reindeer. J Anim Ecol 54:359–374

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solberg EJ, Sæther B-E, Strand O, Loison A (1999) Dynamics of a harvested moose population in a variable environment. J Anim Ecol 68:186–204

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tuljapurkar S, Caswell H (1997) Structured-population models in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater systems. Chapman & Hall, New York, USA

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Yoccoz NG, Mysterud A, Langvatn R, Stenseth NC (2002) Age and density-dependent reproductive effort in male red deer. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 269:1523–1529

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Our study was initiated under a collaborative agreement between the University of Extremadura and Consejería de Medio Ambiente of Junta de Andalucía. We thank R. Arenas and the staff at Consejería de Medio Ambiente in Córdoba for their support at different stages of our study. We are also grateful to the owners and wardens of the estates studied and to the hunters. C. Sánchez-Prieto, L. Castillo, J.M. Seoane, A. Casado, O. Linares and P. Montero helped in laboratory and fieldwork. This work complies with current Spanish laws. Additional financial support came from Spanish Ministry of Science, project CGL2010-17163.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jerónimo Torres-Porras.

Additional information

Communicated by C. Gortázar

Jerónimo Torres‐Porras and Juan Carranza contributed equally to this work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Torres-Porras, J., Carranza, J., Pérez-González, J. et al. The tragedy of the commons: unsustainable population structure of Iberian red deer in hunting estates. Eur J Wildl Res 60, 351–357 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-013-0793-9

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-013-0793-9

Keywords

  • Game management
  • Ungulates
  • Iberian red deer
  • Cervus elaphus hispanicus
  • Fenced estates
  • Open estates