||A simple method for calculating minimum estimates of previous population sizes of wildlife from hunting records
, p.e0198794 , 2018-06-12 , The Public Library of Science
Hunting records have proven useful for examining the historical status of wildlife populations. The number of animals harvested can provide information on past population sizes that would have been required to support harvest yields. Therefore, when statistical data on annual harvests are available, a minimum estimate of past population sizes can be calculated. A very simple method for estimating the sizes of historic wildlife populations using only annual hunting records and the maximum annual population increase rate is presented in this study. This method was applied to estimate past population sizes for Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon yesoensis) in Hokkaido Island, Japan, using hunting records from 1873 to 1882, and assuming 15% and 35% population increase rates. The annual number of deer harvested during 1873 to 1882 ranged from 15,000 to 129,000. The minimum population size in 1873 was estimated as 349,000–473,000. This method was validated by applying it to the eastern population of Hokkaido Island in 1993 when the population size was approximately 260,000, and population sizes estimated by this method were 0.50–1.17 times the nominal population size. Thus, the population estimates from this method were approximately equal to or less than the expected population sizes, and this method can be used to obtain minimum estimates of wildlife populations. Because shorter durations of hunting records result in population size underestimates, it would be better to use hunting record of 10 years or longer in this method. In addition, the degree of underestimation may change with hunting pressure intensity on the populations, other causes of mortality, and maximum annual increase rates of the species. The method can be applied to any wildlife species for which records of annual harvest and maximum annual population increase rates of the species are available. The estimates obtained can provide benchmarks for the population size required for ecosystem conservation, and can be useful for wildlife management as they indicate the lowest limit to maintain the population.