Flooding as a cause of ungulate mortality in floodplain forests in Croatia

  • Damir Ugarković
  • Nikica Šprem
  • Nikolina Kelava UgarkovićEmail author
  • Milan Oršanić
Original Paper


Floodplain forests with regular flooding regimes are the largest natural retentions areas in Croatia and are important as natural habitats for ungulates. The aim of this study was to determine the scale of mortality caused by flooding within these forests. Over a 10-year period, data on ungulate mortality (red deer, roe deer and wild boar), flood duration and flooded surface area were recorded. The study was conducted in primary (Posavske Šume—RET I) and secondary (Opeke II—RET II) retention areas within Lonjsko Polje Nature Park (Sava River region, Croatia). The longest flood period and the largest flooded surface area were recorded in RET I. Total ungulate mortality was 749 individuals, with 482 individuals in RET I and 267 individuals in RET II, predominantly wild boar. Flood mortality did not differ by gender. The highest mortality of wild boar was recorded for the juvenile and yearling age classes. Low mortality of red and roe deer can be attributed to their body size and ecological niches. Differences in mortality between the primary and secondary retention areas corresponded to differences in flood regimes, flood column heights and micro relief structures. In both retention areas, wild boar mortality and flood duration, i.e. flooded surface area, were positively correlated. Because the growth rate of the analysed ungulate populations was higher than the recorded mortality, no long-term effect of floods is expected on species abundance in these areas.


Floods Floodplain forests Mortality Red deer Roe deer Wild boar 



The authors would like to thank to the gamekeepers from Posavske Šume and Opeke II for their assistance in field work. Also, thanks to Linda Zanella for providing language editing and proofreading.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author’s contributions

D. U designed the study. D. U and N. Š wrote introduction and discussion, while N. KU analysed data and wrote results. M. O revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


  1. Abramović D (2016) Game management plan for state hunting ground no. III/28 “Posavske šume” for the period from 01 April 2016 to 31 March 2026. Forest enterprise ˝Hrvatske šume˝ d.o.o., Zagreb, p 200Google Scholar
  2. Andersen DC, Wilson KR, Miller MS, Falck M (2000) Movement patterns of riparian small mammals during predictable floodplain inundation. J Mammal 81:1087–1099CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anonymous (2005) Hunting Law, Official Gazette of Republic, 140/05Google Scholar
  4. Anonymous (2009) Initial National Communication (INC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Banja LukaGoogle Scholar
  5. Bieber C, Ruf T (2005) Population dynamics in wild boar Sus scrofa: ecology, elasticity of growth rate and implications for the management of pulsed resource consumers. J Appl Ecol 42:1203–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boitani L, Mattei L (1992) Aging wild boar (Sus scrofa) by tooth eruption. In: Spitz F, Janeau G, Aulagnier S (eds) Ongules/ungulates 91. SFEPMIRGM, Paris-Toulouse, pp 419–421Google Scholar
  7. Boitani L, Mattei L, Nonis D, Corsi F (1994) Spatial and activity patterns of wild boars in Tuscany, Italy. J Mammal 75(3):600–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dardaillon M (1986) Seasonal variations in habitat selection and spatial distribution of wild boar (Sus scrofa) in the Camargue, Southern France. Behav Process 13(3):251–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Finkelstein ME, Wolfs S, Goldman M, Doak DF, Sievert PR, Balogh G, Hasegawa H (2010) The anatomy of a (potential) disaster: volcanoes, behaviour, and population viability of the short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus). Biol Conserv 143:321–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fonseca C, Alves Silva A, Alves J, Vingada J, Soares AMVM (2011) Reproductive performance of wild boar females in Portugal. Eur J Wildl Res 57:363–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gaillard JM, 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 31:367–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gerisch M, Dziock F, Schanowski A, Ilg C, Henle K (2012) Community resilience following extreme disturbances: the response of ground beetles to a severe summer flood in a Central European lowland stream. River Res Appl 28:81–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grubešić M, Krapinec K (2005) Game of floodplain forest. In: Vukelić J (ed) Floodplain forests in Croatia. Academy of Forest Sciences, Zagreb, pp 346.14–351.14Google Scholar
  14. Hirabayashi Y, Mahendran R, Koirala S, Konoshima L, Yamazaki D, Watanabe S, Kim H, Kanae S (2013) Global flood risk under climate change. Nat Clim Change 3:816–882CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacob J (2003) The response of small mammal populations to flooding. Mamm Biol 68:102–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jacobs J (1974) Quantitative measurement of flood selection. Oecologia 14(4):413–417CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Karadžić B, Jarić S, Pavlović P, Mitrović M (2015) Aquatic and wetland vegetation along the Sava River. In: Milačić R, Ščančar J, Paunović M (eds) the Sava River. Springer, New York, pp 249–319Google Scholar
  18. Keuling O, Baubet E, Duscher A, Ebert C, Fischer C, Monaco A (2013) Mortality rates of wild boar Sus scrofa L. in central Europe. Eur J Wildl Res 59:805–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lemel J, Truvé J, Söderberg B (2003) Variation in ranging and activity behaviour of European wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Sweden. Wildl Biol 9:29–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. MacDonald-Beyers K, Labisky RF (2005) Influence of flood waters on survival, reproduction, and habitat use of white-tailed deer in the Florida Everglades. Wetlands 25:659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Massei G, Kindberg J, Licoppe A, Gačić D, Šprem N, Kamler J, Baubet E, Hohmann U, Monaco A, Ozoliņš J, Cellina S, Podgórski T, Fonseca C, Markov N, Pokorny B, Rosell C, Náhlik A (2015) Wild boar populations up, number of hunters down? A review of trends and implications for Europe. Pest Manag Sci 71:492–500CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Milly PC, Wetherald RT, Dunne KA, Delworth TL (2002) Increasing risk of great floods in a changing climate. Nature 415:514–517CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Mudelsee M, Börngen M, Tetzlaff G, Grünewald U (2003) No upward trends in the occurrence of extreme floods in central Europe. Nature 425:166–169CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Mysterud A, Sæther BE (2011) Climate change and implications for the future distribution and management of ungulates in Europe. In: Putman R, Apollonio M, Andersen R (eds) Ungulate management in Europe, Problems and Practices. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 349–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. O’Connell-Goode KC, Lowe CL, Clark JD (2014) Effects of a flooding event on a threatened black bear population in Louisiana. Anim Conserv 17:476–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Prpić B (2005) Anthropogenic impacts on the water condition of river valleys. The resulting changes in floodplain forests. In: Vukelić J (ed) Floodplain forests in Croatia. Academy of Forestry Sciences, Zagreb, pp 186–190Google Scholar
  27. Prpić B (2008) Undesirable hydrotechnical impacts upon Croatian floodplain forests. In: Klimo E, Hager H, Matić S, Anić I, Kulhavý J (eds) Floodplain forests of the temperate zone of Europe, Lesnická práce s.r.o., Kostelec nad Černými lesy, pp 50–65Google Scholar
  28. Prpić B, Vratarić P, Seletković Z (2005) The power of the river as a crucial factor in the genesis and surviva of floodplain forests. In: Vukelić J (ed) Floodplain Forests in Croatia. Academy of Forestry Sciences, Zagreb, pp 174–176Google Scholar
  29. SAS Institute Inc. (2002–2014) SAS/STAT Software, V 9.4., Cary, NC, USAGoogle Scholar
  30. Schlaghamerský J, Hudec K (2008) The fauna of temperate European floodplain forests. In: Klimo E, Hager H, Matić S, Anić I, Kulhavý J (eds) Floodplain forests of the temperate zone of Europe, Lesnická práce s.r.o., Kostelec nad Černými lesy, pp 160–230Google Scholar
  31. Seletković Z, Tikvić I (2005) Climatic Circumstances. In: Vukelić J (ed) Floodplain forests in Croatia. Academy of Forest Science, Zagreb, pp 91–92Google Scholar
  32. Servanty S, Gaillard JM, Toigo C, Brandt S, Baubet E (2009) Pulsed resources and climate-induced variation in the reproductive traits of wild boar under high hunting pressure. J Anim Ecol 78:1278–1290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Šimunić I (2016) Regulation and protection of water. Croatian University Press, ZagrebGoogle Scholar
  34. Šprem N, Piria M, Prđun S, Novosel H, Treer T (2016) Variation of wild boar reproductive performance in different habitat types: implications for management. Russ J Ecol 47:96–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tomljanović K (2016) Game management plan for state hunting ground no. III/39 “Opeke II” for the period from 01 April 2016 to 31 March 2026. Faculty of Forestry, Zagreb, p 293Google Scholar
  36. Vratarić P, Grubešić M, Krapinec K, Getz D (2005) Hunting management in floodplain forests. In: Vukelić J (ed) Floodplain forests in Croatia. Academy of Forest Sciences, Zagreb, pp 352–370Google Scholar
  37. Welbergen JA, Klose SM, Markus N, Eby P (2008) Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 275:419–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Williams AK, Ratnaswamy MJ, Renken RB (2001) Impacts of a flood on small mammal populations of Lower Missouri River Floodplain Forests. Am Midl Nat 146:217–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wuczyński A, Jakubiec Z (2013) Mortality of game mammals caused by an extreme flooding event in south-western Poland. Nat Hazards 69:85–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damir Ugarković
    • 1
  • Nikica Šprem
    • 2
  • Nikolina Kelava Ugarković
    • 3
    Email author
  • Milan Oršanić
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Silviculture, Faculty of ForestryUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries, Beekeeping, Game Management and Special Zoology, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Department of Animal Science and Technology, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

Personalised recommendations