Hunters serving the ecosystem: the contribution of recreational hunting to wild boar population control
The extractive nature of recreational hunting may provide a service to both the ecosystem and society, namely the control of problem species. We reviewed the annual wild boar hunting bag data from hunting sites in Asturias (Spain) from 2000/01 to 2013/14, paying particular attention to the evolution on hunting estates after ban periods. We hypothesized that the annual hunting bag after a hunting ban would be larger than that of the pre-ban period, and that this difference could provide an indication of hunters’ relative contribution to wild boar population regulation. The total hunting bag grew during the study period, from 3723 wild boar (0.39ind/km2) in the 2000/01 hunting year to 7593 in that of 2013/14 (0.79ind/km2)—a mean annual increase of 5.63%. Low hunting quotas cannot be blamed for these growing trends, since no more than 50% of the authorized animals are hunted. The growth of the mean annual pre-ban hunting bag on the estates on which hunting bans took place was 8.46%. The hunting bag grew by 40.33% immediately after the hunting ban ended—a growth rate seven times higher than that of the background hunting bag. This constitutes a proxy of the regulatory effect of hunters on wild boar population growth. Following the remarkable increase after the ban, the wild boar hunting bag attained values that were slightly lower than those of the pre-ban period, which indicates that hunters are able to reduce wild boar abundance. Hunting, therefore, provides an important service to both the ecosystem and society by contributing to regulating the growth of problem species such as the wild boar.