The potential impacts of changes in bear hunting policy for hunting organisations in Croatia



Knott EJ, Bunnefeld N, Huber D, Reljic S, Kerezi V & Milner-Gulland EJ (2014) The potential impacts of changes in bear hunting policy for hunting organisations in Croatia. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 60 (1), pp. 85-97.

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Croatia is currently being managed through trophy hunting, with quotas allocated to local hunting organisations. Human-bear conflict is present at a low level, but any losses are compensated by the hunting organisations that benefit from bear hunting. Attitudes towards bears are generally positive, and the bear population appears stable, or even increasing. Croatia's current bear hunting policy relies upon both the ecological sustainability of the quotas and the economic sustainability of the hunting organisations. To address the first of these pillars of current policy, we used a two-sex matrix model of the bear population to investigate the biological sustainability of current hunting levels. The model suggests that if the annual allocated quota were fully realised, the population would suffer a considerable decrease over 10 years. A likely explanation for the mismatch between this result and the observed stability of the population is that the bear population size is underestimated. To address the second pillar, we quantified the current structure, costs and benefits of bear hunting to hunting organisations through an interview survey with hunting managers. We found that bear hunting is a substantial component of hunting organisations' income, supporting the other activities of the organisation. Croatia's recent accession to the EU will require changes in their bear management system, potentially stopping bear trophy hunting. Therefore, we assessed the changes in hunting organisations' budgets in the absence of bear hunting. Our results demonstrate that a loss of bear trophy hunting would result in a substantial loss of income to the hunting organisations. Moving bear hunting and compensation mechanisms from local management and responsibility to a more centralised system without trophy hunting, as suggested by EU legislation, will lead to considerable uncertainties. These include how to make centralised decisions on population targets and offtake levels for population control, given the uncertainty around population estimates, and on compensation payments given the loss of the current system which relies heavily on local income from trophy hunting, local relationships and informal monetary and non-monetary compensation.

Brown bear; Ursus arctos ; Trophy hunting; Cost–benefit analysis; Population modelling

European Journal of Wildlife Research: Volume 60, Issue 1

Publication date28/02/2014

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Professor Nils Bunnefeld
Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences