Hunting promotes sexual conflict in brown bears
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Animal Ecology. 2017, 86 (1), 35-42. 10.1111/1365-2656.12576
The removal of individuals through hunting can destabilize social structure, potentially affecting population dynamics. Although previous studies have shown that hunting can indirectly reduce juvenile survival through increased sexually selected infanticide (SSI), very little is known about the spatiotemporal effects of male hunting on juvenile survival. Using detailed individual monitoring of a hunted population of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Sweden (1991–2011), we assessed the spatiotemporal effect of male removal on cub survival. We modelled cub survival before, during and after the mating season. We used three proxies to evaluate spatial and temporal variation in male turnover; distance and timing of the closest male killed and number of males that died around a female's home range centre. Male removal decreased cub survival only during the mating season, as expected in seasonal breeders with SSI. Cub survival increased with distance to the closest male killed within the previous 1·5 years, and it was lower when the closest male killed was removed 1·5 instead of 0·5 year earlier. We did not detect an effect of the number of males killed. Our results support the hypothesis that social restructuring due to hunting can reduce recruitment and suggest that the distribution of the male deaths might be more important than the overall number of males that die. As the removal of individuals through hunting is typically not homogenously distributed across the landscape, spatial heterogeneity in hunting pressure may cause source–sink dynamics, with lower recruitment in areas of high human-induced mortality.