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Hunting suitability model - a new tool for managing wild ungulates

Citation

Griesberger, Paul et al. (2022), Hunting suitability model - a new tool for managing wild ungulates, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.rbnzs7hcp

Abstract

Rising numbers of wild ungulates in human-dominated landscapes of Europe can induce negative effects like damages to forests. Therefore, effective wildlife management, including harvesting through hunting is becoming increasingly important. However, current hunting practices often fail to diminish those negative effects, as many ungulate species retreat to areas unsuitable for hunting. This predator-avoidance behaviour makes it difficult to fulfill the demand of reducing population numbers. Thus, there is an urgent need for innovative and effective wildlife management tools to counteract this problem. Here we provide for the first time a hunting suitability model for wild ungulate management in mountainous landscapes to visualise hunting suitability objectively and realistically. Using red deer as a model species, we modelled hunting suitability with high spatial resolution (10 x 10 m), based on remote sensing information, field surveys, and expert knowledge of professional hunters. We analysed spatio-temporal habitat selection by radio-collared deer in relation to locations of varying hunting suitability. The suitability of various locations regarding hunting influenced the spatio-temporal habitat selection by this species, consistent with our hypothesis. Red deer avoided areas suitable for hunting during daylight hours in the hunting season, but not during the night. This species seems to perceive a landscape of heterogeneous anthropogenic predation risk, shaped by locations of various hunting suitability, as we modelled it. This confirms the empirical realism of the model. Concerning wild ungulate management, our hunting suitability model provides high-resolution predictions of where species like red deer will retreat when perceived anthropogenic predation risk increases. The model also yields useful insights regarding the hunting suitability of particular locations, which is valuable information especially for non-locals. Furthermore, the model can serve as planning tool to inform decisions about where particular hunting strategies can be performed most efficiently to manage wild ungulates and therefore minimize human-wildlife conflicts.

Methods

See manuscript

Usage Notes

See README_hunting_suitability_model.txt