Natural Resources, School of

 

Date of this Version

2011

Citation

Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Grouse, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011

Abstract

Adaptive harvest management (AHM) can assist biologists with decisions made under uncertainty. There have been few applications of AHM to manage wildlife at the state level, and we provide a theoretical exercise using AHM in the context of Greater Prairie-Chicken harvest in southeast Nebraska. Our goals were to develop and evaluate an AHM framework for a state specific harvest decision, and to use the AHM process to evaluate uncertainties associated with harvest mortality for Greater Prairie-Chickens in Nebraska. Harvest of prairie chickens in southeast Nebraska was restarted 2000, using a special limited permit system, and was controversial with respect to the potential impacts of harvest on a recovering population. We followed standard steps to develop our AHM framework and created a formal utility function to reward harvest regulations that would meet management objectives. We used observed spring counts of males at leks and predicted counts from two competing alternative models based on additive and compensatory harvest mortality to weight our confidence in each model. Our AHM framework provided a framework to select the optimal harvest regulation package. Harvest rates averaged 0.057 as a proportion of the fall population during 2000–2007, and count data suggested that the population was relatively stable. The compensatory harvest mortality model had achieved >99% confidence by 2004, which suggests that harvest mortality in this population may be compensatory for harvest rates <0.06. Our exercise shows that AHM can be effectively applied to harvest decisions at a small geographic scale, and we encourage biologists to consider using data on harvest to formally gain information that will enhance harvest management.