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Modeling the distribution of Apennine brown bears during hyperphagia to reduce the impact of wild boar hunting

Abstract

The Apennine brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) survives today in a relict population of about 50 bears in the central Apennines, even though they have been long protected and habitat suitability at the landscape scale does not appear to be a limiting factor for population recovery. Multiple uses within the bear range may increase disturbance and chances of human-caused mortality, including wild boar hunting drives with dogs conducted in the fall and coinciding with hyperphagia in bears. Although wild boar hunting drives represent a very popular recreational activity throughout the central Apennines, this is a very invasive practice and is thought to exert both direct and indirect detrimental effects on bears. In order to foster the progressive abandonment of wild boar hunting drives in the bear range in favor of less impacting hunting methods, we developed a species distribution model (SDM) to identify areas of likely bear presence during hyperphagia. This SDM could represent the basis to develop a hunting zoning system useful to modulate wild boar hunting regimes according to the bear occurrence. Starting from a large dataset of bear occurrences collected from September to November (2005–2010) within the core distribution range of the bear (n = 5746 GPS- and VHF-telemetry locations on 25 adult and subadult bears, plus other signs of bear presence), we modeled the distribution of bears during hyperphagia and selected candidate models using second order corrected Akaike information criteria (AIC c ). The final model included 16 environmental, topographic, and anthropogenic variables and was evaluated using the continuous Boyce index (0.91). By intersecting the bear occurrence model with a proxy of wild boar hunting intensity, we identified the areas where the banning of wild boar hunting drives represents a priority, and where less impacting hunting regimes are urgently needed. By discussing how such a model can be used to facilitate consensus toward alternative hunting management scenarios, we believe our approach can be extended to other small populations of bears, and of other species as well, that live in multiple-use landscapes and are in need of recovery.

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Acknowledgments

LM was supported by a postdoc fellowship provided by a US donor through the International World Center (Ely, MN, USA). We thank F. Recchia, C. Ciuffetelli, B. Franzetti, V. Mastrangioli, A. Pace, L. Sammarone, and C. Sulli for sharing ideas and comments on wild boar hunting management and brown bear conservation in Abruzzo. We also thank the PNALM wardens and many technicians, students, and volunteers for assistance during fieldwork. L. Gentile (PNALM Veterinary Service) assisted with bear captures, and M. Masi helped with GIS analyses. The PNALM authority provided the data on indirect bear signs, and the Bear Monitoring Network of the Region of Lazio made available bear presence data recently collected in the western peripheral portion of the Apennine bear range. We greatly appreciate the detailed comments and insights of two anonymous referees which allowed us to enhance the content and readability of a previous version of our manuscript.

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Correspondence to P. Ciucci.

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Communicated by P. Acevedo

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Maiorano, L., Boitani, L., Monaco, A. et al. Modeling the distribution of Apennine brown bears during hyperphagia to reduce the impact of wild boar hunting. Eur J Wildl Res 61, 241–253 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-014-0894-0

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Keywords

  • Apennine brown bear
  • Habitat suitability
  • Multiple land use
  • Species distribution models
  • Ursus arctos marsicanus
  • Wild boar hunting