Modeling the impact of selective harvesting on red deer antlers

Rocio Pozo, Susanne Schindler, Sarah Cubaynes, Jeremy Cusack, Tim Coulson, Aurelio Malo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Hunting is a common component in the management of ungulate species. Despite its widespread use, the influence of selective harvesting on phenotypic trait change is still ambiguous, and represents a critical gap in our understanding of the responses of wild populations under harvest. Using the long-term red deer (Cervus elaphus) dataset (1972–2012) from the Isle of Rum National Nature Reserve, Scotland, we assessed the relationship between antler length and key demographic processes (i.e., survival, recruitment, antler growth, parent-offspring trait correlation) for the male component of the population. We then constructed the first integral projection model for this species to examine the effects of simulated trophy hunting on 2 population-level parameters: the stable antler size distribution and the relative reproductive value of males. When male mortality rates due to hunting were <20%, the effect on antler size distribution and the reproductive value function were relatively small. However, as mortality due to hunting increased to 50% in large individuals, the direct effects of hunting on mean antler size and reproductive value became evident. Our model acts as a useful starting point to investigate the ecological and evolutionary consequences of hunting in red deer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-989
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number6
Early online date12 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • antler size
  • integral projection model
  • Isle of Rum
  • red deer
  • Scotland
  • sexual selection

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