Central to the theory of life history evolution is the existence of trade-offs between different traits, such as the trade-off between early maturity and an extended period of body growth. Based on analysis of the reproductive tracts of harvested Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) females in Norway, we find that females that mature early are generally heavier than those that postpone maturation. A higher proportion of 1.5-year-old females showed signs of ovulation in areas with high prey density, where they were also heavier. Further, we show that female Eurasian lynx that mature early have the same number of placental scars (an index of breeding investment and litter size) as older females, suggesting that they have a relatively high investment in their first litter. This induces a cost in terms of body weight development, as those females that had matured at the age of 1.5 years were substantially lighter by the age of 2.5 years than those that postponed breeding. This effect tended to be more pronounced in areas with low prey density. We discuss to what extent this might affect their future fitness prospects, and suggest that such costs of maturing early in terms of body weight development might be high in terrestrial large carnivores due to a prolonged period of postnatal care.
Harvesting large carnivores can be a management tool for meeting politically set goals for their desired abundance. However, harvesting carnivores creates its own set of conflicts in both society and among conservation professionals, where one consequence is a need to demonstrate that management is sustainable, evidence-based, and guided by science. Furthermore, because large carnivores often also have high degrees of legal protection, harvest quotas have to be carefully justified and constantly adjusted to avoid damaging their conservation status. We developed a Bayesian state-space model to support adaptive management of Eurasian lynx harvesting in Scandinavia. The model uses data from the annual monitoring of lynx abundance and results from long-term field research on lynx biology, which has provided detailed estimates of key demographic parameters. We used the model to predict the probability that the forecasted population size will be below or above the management objectives when subjected to different harvest quotas. The model presented here informs decision makers about the policy risks of alternative harvest levels. Earlier versions of the model have been available for wildlife managers in both Sweden and Norway to guide lynx harvest quotas and the model predictions showed good agreement with observations. We combined monitoring data with data on vital rates and were able to estimate unobserved additional mortality rates, which are most probably due to poaching. In both countries, the past quota setting strategy suggests that there has been a de facto threshold strategy with increasing proportion, which means that there is no harvest below a certain population size, but above this threshold there is an increasing proportion of the population harvested as the population size increases. The annual assessment of the monitoring results, the use of forecasting models, and a threshold harvest approach to quota setting will all reduce the risk of lynx population sizes moving outside the desired goals. The approach we illustrate could be adapted to other populations of mammals worldwide.
Sarcoptic mange is a widely distributed disease that affects numerous mammalian species. We used camera traps to investigate the apparent prevalence and spatiotemporal dynamics of sarcoptic mange in a red fox population in southeastern Norway. We monitored red foxes for five years using 305 camera traps distributed across an 18000 km2 area. A total of 6581 fox events were examined to visually identify mange compatible lesions. We investigated factors associated with the occurrence of mange by using logistic models within a Bayesian framework, whereas the spatiotemporal dynamics of the disease were analysed with space-time scan statistics. The apparent prevalence of the disease fluctuated over the study period with a mean of 3.15% and credible interval [1.25, 6.37], and our best logistic model explaining the presence of red foxes with mange-compatible lesions included time since the beginning of the study and the interaction between distance to settlement and season as explanatory variables. The scan analyses detected several potential clusters of the disease that varied in persistence and size, and the locations in the cluster with the highest probability were closer to human settlements than the other survey locations. Our results indicate that red foxes in an advanced stage of the disease are most likely found closer to human settlements during periods of low wild prey availability (winter). We discuss different potential causes. Furthermore, the disease appears to follow a pattern of small localized outbreaks rather than sporadic isolated events.
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The management of large carnivores in multi-use landscapes is always controversial, and managers need to balance a wide range of competing interests. Hunter harvest is often used to limit population size and distribution but is proving to be both controversial and technically challenging. Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) are currently managed as a game species in Norway. We describe an adaptive management approach where quota setting is based on an annual census and chart the population development through the period 1996-2008, as management has become significantly more sophisticated and better informed by the increased availability of scientific data. During this period the population has been through a period of high quotas and population decline caused by fragmented management authority and over optimistic estimates of lynx reproduction, followed by a period of recovery due to quota reductions. The modern management regime is placed in the context of shifting policy during the last 160 years, during which management goals have moved from extermination stimulated by bounties, through a short phase of protection, and now to quota-regulated harvest. Much management authority has also been delegated from central to local levels. We conclude that adaptive management has the potential to keep the population within some bounded limits, although there will inevitably be fluctuation.