Where is the pulse to have the finger on? A retrospective analysis of two decades of Alpine Galliforms (Aves: Galliformes) census and game bag data in Italy

Abstract

Information on the abundance of the Italian populations of black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), Alpine rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta helvetica) and Alpine rock partridge (Alectoris graeca saxatilis) rely only on extrapolations of local data to the national scale, since there is no national standardized survey. Consequently, their status is virtually unknown. We performed a first-ever assessment of a medium-term (1996–2014) population trend of these species using and comparing post-breeding count and bag data at hunting district scale. These data were collected from various authorities in charge of wildlife management and allowed us to test the influence of hunting policies on the estimated trends. Rock partridge showed a stable trend with numbers fluctuating between years, while there was evidence of a severe decline for rock ptarmigan. No general conclusion could be drawn for the black grouse, as we detected lack of consistency of count and bag data. Counts were greatly overdispersed as a result of an uneven count effort among hunting districts. Adding the game management authority as model covariate resulted in more robust trend estimations, suggesting a significant effect of different policies that emerged also as similar hunting pressure across species within authorities. Hunting effort variation over the time was instead negligible. Species-specific game management bias is discussed. Our results highlight the need for a survey scheme or guidelines to be applied uniformly at a national scale.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all regional and provincial authorities that provided data for this study, as well as hunting districts’ committees and all people who contribute at various ways to bird counts. Unfortunately, some authorities intentionally denied access to data. This lack of cooperation between institutions, at various levels, in the management of wildlife in Italy is one of the critical indirect issues in conservation, often arising solely out of personal interests of officials. We also thank Luc Wauters for checking the English and an anonymous reviewer that helped improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alessio Martinoli.

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The hunting of black grouse, rock ptarmigan and rock partridge in Italy complies with the national law on wildlife protection, Legge 11 febbraio 1992, n. 157 “Norme per la protezione della fauna selvatica omeoterma e per il prelievo venatorio”, and with local, regional or provincial regulations. No animals were shot for the specific purposes of the study.

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Martinoli, A., Preatoni, D.G., Bisi, F. et al. Where is the pulse to have the finger on? A retrospective analysis of two decades of Alpine Galliforms (Aves: Galliformes) census and game bag data in Italy. Eur J Wildl Res 63, 65 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-017-1122-5

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Keywords

  • Alps
  • Grouse
  • Status
  • Italy
  • Hunting bags
  • Game management