A study finds Hunters provide Water and Food to Target and Non-Target Species

April 29, 2024
Posted in Birds, Mammals
April 29, 2024 FACE

While in northern and central European countries the limiting season for wildlife is winter, in southern European countries it is summer due to the long periods of drought in this season. Focused on helping wildlife to overcome this hard season, hunters and game managers provide supplementary water troughs and feeders in their hunting states. Although this game management measure has been known and widespread, the use of water points and feeders for non-targeted species wasn’t that well known.

A group of Spanish researchers joined a team to study if non-targeted species visit feeders and water troughs targeting small game such as wild rabbit and red-legged-partridge. This team headed by José Armenteros of the León’s University’s Research Group on Game Species Breeding and Management, implemented a study on 4 Spanish hunting grounds where they follow the wildlife activity in feeders and water troughs using camera traps. Three of the hunting grounds had their feeders and water troughs fenced with a metallic net capable of excluding big game species, cattle and canines like foxes and domestic dogs.

In total 52 spots were monitored, 16 feeders, 10 water troughs and 26 feeders and water troughs that had been installed together. This work resulted in more than 28 thousand photos which, after processing, represented almost 19 thousand different visits where 75 species (54 birds, 14 mammals, 6 reptiles and 1 amphibian) were identified. These species were divided into two different groups, targeted species which included lagomorph (Iberian hare, wild rabbit, and red-legged-partridge) and non-targeted species.

After analyzing the data, the researchers understood that 55.3% of visits were from targeted species and 44.7% of non-targeted species. In this last group corvids represented 46,1%, rodents 26,8%, other birds mainly passerines 23.6%, columbids 1,9% and other species <1%.
The research team observed as well that water troughs were three times more used when compared to feeders indicating that water availability should be prioritized in mediterranean habitats due to their increasingly long and dry summers.

The study showed that hunters’ providing food and water favors targeted and non-targeted species in seasons and habitats where these resources are scarce. Feeders and water troughs have been becoming more essential as the consequences of climate changes intensify. Making water available has a major importance as it can reduce the impact of droughts in mediterranean habitat species.

Policy Relevance

This study is one more prove of the importance of hunters’ management measures for game and non-game species. Even more, in an actual context, when the impact of climate changes is increasing all around the world.
Hunters and game managers measures, such as providing water and food, are deeply contributing to achieve the goals of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, fighting the effects of global warming and strengthening the resilience of biodiversity in this new reality.

Source and more information:

Armenteros, JA, Caro, J, Sánchez-García, C et al. (2021). Do non-target species visit feeders and water troughs targeting small game? A study from farmland Spain using camera-trapping. Integrative Zoology 16, 226–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/1749-4877.12496
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