New paper highlights challenges and limitations with ground shooting for mammal control.
A new research paper published in Wildlife Research outlines both the role and the limitations of ground-based shooting in overabundant mammal control.
The take-home message is that ground-based shooting can (and does) help to control overabundant mammal populations, but it’s not that simple — control efforts need to be fit for purpose, properly planned and realistic about what they achieve.
The paper titled A Systematic Review of Ground-Based Shooting to Control Overabundant Mammal Populations was co-authored by researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand and looked at 64 studies from 56 journal articles, book chapters and technical reports. Most cases were from Australia (52 per cent), North America (22 per cent) and Europe (22 per cent). The 19 mammalian species subject to ground-shooting were from seven families, and ranged in body mass from 2 kg (European rabbit) to 200 kg (sambar deer).
Interestingly for recreational hunters, the study looked at the influence of different shooter types on the outcomes of control programs. What it found is important for organisations like the Australian Deer Association as we go about working with land managers in the design of control programs involving volunteer hunters. Of the reports reviewed, more than two thirds of operations using recreational hunters failed to meet their pre-defined objectives. The authors speculate on three potential reasons for this:
1) The motivations of harvest-based shooters are not always aligned with operational objectives.
2) Operations using unpaid shooters often relied on an inconsistent pool of shooters, with varying levels of skill and motivation.
3) Operations that are poorly conceived or do not have sufficient funding in place to achieve stated objectives may be more likely to rely on cheap or readily available labour provided by volunteer hunters or commercial harvesters.
Over nearly two decades of involvement in volunteer-based deer management programs the Australian Deer Association has encountered all three of the problems outlined above, along with a good number of programs that are meeting or exceeding their stated objectives.
Our experience has led us to become more selective both about the programs we will become involved in and about the pool of qualified hunters who can participate. We are constantly seeking to raise the bar through improved training, mentoring and accreditation.
What is most useful about this paper is that it considers the management implications of its findings and lays them out in a clear, concise and compelling manner, with recommendations to help people designing programs to avoid pitfalls.
The conclusions reached in this paper are sobering and give us cause to search for more improvements in our operations and to maintain the selectivity that we have developed over the decades.
CSIRO PUBLISHING Wildlife Research doi.org/10.1071/WR19129
“A Systematic Review of Ground-Based Shooting to Control Overabundant Mammal Populations”
Andrew J. Bengsen A,E, David M. ForsythA, Stephen HarrisB, A. David M. LathamC, Steven R. McLeodA and Anthony PopleD
AVertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.
BSchool of Biological Sciences, Life Sciences Building, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, United Kingdom.
CWildlife Ecology and Management, Manaaki Whenua — Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln 7640, New Zealand.
DInvasive Plants and Animals, Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park, Qld 4102, Australia.
ECorresponding author. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org