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Rock partridge alectoris graeca saxatilis hunting mortality factors of variation and management prospects for hunted populations



Rock partridge alectoris graeca saxatilis hunting mortality factors of variation and management prospects for hunted populations



Gibier Faune Sauvage 9(MARCH): 1-25



Rock partridge (Alectoris graeca saxatilis) shooting, (numbers shot, numbers of hunters) was monitored daily for several consecutive autumns on 2 territories: Pierlas (Alpes-Maritimes) during 1983-90, and Ancelle (Hautes-Alpes) during 1985-90. A daily record of the numbers of partridges shot during a "regular" season shows a marked "opening-day" effect at Pierlas, due doth to decreasing hunting pressure and diminishing hunting success as the season progresses. This has not been observed in Ancelle where the seasonal trend in harvested birds seems to be linked to hunting success only. Year-to-year changes (Pierlas) and geographic variation (Pierlas/Ancelle) in bag numbers mainly seem to be a function of partridge density under moderate hunting pressure (a 3- to 4-hunters/hunting-day average on each territory). The mean proportions of crippled or killed, but unretrieved, birds represent respectively 19% and 26% of the total annual bags in Pierlas and Ancelle. Average percentages of birds shot are 18% in Pierlas and 28% in Ancelle. The effect of such hunting pressures could not be detected since spring population numbers remained stable over the whole period of study, in the two territories. From 1983 to 1990, the age structures of two populations inhabiting the Alpes-Maritimes department, an upland hybrid (Alectoris graeca saxatilis .times. Alectoris rufa rufa) population and a high-mountain rock partridge population, were studied in parallel using two methods: August counts with pointing dogs and age determination of 521 harvested partridges. Changes in the populations age ratios were appraised with the help of Logit models as a function of year, territory and method. Both methods yielded age ratios which, statistically, did not differ from one another. This implies that the hunting bag age ratio may be used as an indicator of population productivity, as readily as the young: adult ratio obtained by census with a dog. In contrast, the age ratio in the upland population was different from that of the high mountain population, in any one year. Therefore, different cynegetical management policies for hybrid and rock partridge populations would be justified. Year-to-year variations in age ratios were important, but they did not occur parallelly in both populations. The percentage of young in the rock partridge bag from the Alpes-Maritimes (a 1983-1990 mean of 60%) varied between 38 and 69% according to the year. Changes in this percentage are strongly correlated both with the amount of rainfall and the number of days with rain between June-July and June-August. These data showed the disastrous effect of rain during periods of nesting and chick rearing on the breeding success of the rock partridge. Percentages of young in the 1988-1990 rock partridge bag did not differ between the Alpes-Maritimes, Hautes-Alpes and Isere populations (respectively 63%, 53% and 61%). Harvest data indicated that the sex ratio of young was balanced, but that the sex ratio of adults favored males (58%), in the Alpes-Maritimes as well as in the Hautes-Alpes. These preliminary results show that hunting bags are a very interesting tool for studying population structures and trends in rock partridge, at the local level as well as at a wider scale.

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