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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2019

Authors: Schai-Braun, SC; Kowalczyk, C; Klansek, E; Hackländer, K

Title: Estimating sustainable harvest rates for european hare (Lepus europaeus) populations.

Source: Sustainability (Switzerland) 2019; 11: 2837

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Klansek Erich

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology

Hunting quotas are used to manage populations of game species in order to ensure sustainable exploitation. However, unpredictable climatic events may interact with hunting. We established a population model for European hares (Lepus europaeus) in Lower Austria. We compared the sustainability of voluntary quotas used by hunterswhich are derived from hare-specific guidelineswith the actual numbers of hares shot and our recommended quotas for hares, which have been derived from climate and population modeling. We used population modeling based on vital rates and densities to adjust our recommended quotas in order to achieve sustainable harvest. The survival of age classes 1 and 3 had the highest impact on the population growth rate. Population viability analysis showed that a recommended quota with a harvest rate of 10% was sustainable for population densities of 45 hares/km(2), and that the threshold for hunting should be raised from 10 hares/km(2) so that hare populations with <15 hares/km(2) are not hunted. The recommended quota outperformed the voluntary hunting quota, since more hares could be harvested sustainably. Age Class 1 survival was strongly linked with weather: a single year with unfavorable weather conditions (low precipitation) negatively affected population densities. Game species, including the European hare, face increasingly frequent weather extremes due to climate change, so hunting quotas need to be sensitive to frequent population fluctuations.

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