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The Role of Economic and Social Factors Driving Predator Control in Small-Game Estates in Central Spain

Miguel Delibes-Mateos, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)
Silvia Díaz-Fernández, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)
Pablo Ferreras, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)
Javier Viñuela, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)
Beatriz Arroyo, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC, CSIC-UCLM-JCCM)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05367-180228

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Abstract

One of the most important human-wildlife conflicts in the world is that where predators are involved. Predators may compete with us for the same resources, such as game species. As a consequence, predators have been frequently controlled by game managers, which has negatively affected many predator populations worldwide. The understanding of human-wildlife conflicts requires a multidisplicinary framework that is rarely considered. We aim to evaluate the attitudes and behavior of game managers with regard to predator management in central Spain, as well as to explore factors that lead to these attitudes and behavior. Data were gathered through face to face interviews with game managers from 59 small-game hunting estates within central Spain. Predator control was employed in 90% of the estates, but control intensity was very variable among estates. Economic interests and perceptions about predators apparently influenced variation in control intensity. The main methods employed were cage-traps and shooting, but some illegal practices (e.g., leg-hold traps or snares without stopping devices) were also admittedly used for carnivores. Most managers considered that efficacy of legal methods for control of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) was very limited. Overall, nonselective methods, such as some types of snares, were more frequently employed in commercial than in noncommercial estates. Most managers believed that predators had an important effect on prey, and therefore that not doing it would lead to smaller hunting bags. Only managers from commercial hunting estates used stronger discourses such as that hunting would be impossible without carrying out predator control, which suggests that their tolerance for predators was lower than that of managers whose main motivation was not economic. Most managers considered that predator control was effective to reduce the number of predators, but only in the short term. Therefore, they highlighted the need of maintaining predator control every year. Our results highlight the important role that both social and economic factors (even stronger than ecological factors) play driving predator control, and therefore the need of incorporating these factors when making decisions to mitigate the human-predator conflict.

Key words

attitudes towards predators; game management; human-wildlife conflicts; perceptions; Pica pica; Vulpes vulpes
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087