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Simard M.A.,Laval University | Dussault C.,Direction generale de lexpertise sur la faune et ses habitats | Huot J.,Laval University | Cote S.D.,Laval University
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2013

Overabundant populations of cervids have induced drastic negative effects on plant communities in several regions worldwide. Antlerless deer harvest by sport hunters has been proposed as a potential solution to overabundance because the philopatric behavior of female deer is expected to limit recolonization of hunted zones. The efficiency of this method, however, has rarely been tested in the wild. Using a large-scale experimental design, we reduced white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) density within 5 20-km2 areas on Anticosti Island (Québec, Canada). Our objective was to harvest 50% of antlerless deer in each site during the first year of the study in 2002, and 30% from 2003 to 2006. We monitored deer density, vegetation abundance and growth as well as deer life-history traits during 6 years in these experimental sites and in 5 control sites where harvest rate was 5-7%. Overall, we achieved 93% of harvest objectives. Contrary to our expectations, however, deer density, vegetation abundance and growth, and deer life-history traits did not vary differently in experimental and control sites during the study period. They rather varied stochastically but synchronously. We discuss several alternative hypotheses that may explain these results, including 1) compensatory mechanisms, 2) biases in density estimates, 3) limited access to territory for hunters, 4) large target areas for localized management, 5) low hunter density, 6) recolonization by surrounding deer, 7) slow plant response under canopy cover, and 8) bottom-up mechanisms. Given the large efforts invested in this study, we conclude that the local control of abundant cervid populations through sport hunting may be difficult to achieve in many natural environments. © The Wildlife Society, 2012.

Rioux Paquette S.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Talbot B.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Garant D.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Mainguy J.,Direction generale de lexpertise sur la faune et ses habitats | Pelletier F.,Universite de Sherbrooke
Evolutionary Applications | Year: 2014

Predicting the geographic spread of wildlife epidemics requires knowledge about the movement patterns of disease hosts or vectors. The field of landscape genetics provides valuable approaches to study dispersal indirectly, which in turn may be used to understand patterns of disease spread. Here, we applied landscape genetic analyses and spatially explicit models to identify the potential path of raccoon rabies spread in a mesocarnivore community. We used relatedness estimates derived from microsatellite genotypes of raccoons and striped skunks to investigate their dispersal patterns in a heterogeneous landscape composed predominantly of agricultural, forested and residential areas. Samples were collected in an area covering 22 000 km2 in southern Québec, where the raccoon rabies variant (RRV) was first detected in 2006. Multiple regressions on distance matrices revealed that genetic distance among male raccoons was strictly a function of geographic distance, while dispersal in female raccoons was significantly reduced by the presence of agricultural fields. In skunks, our results suggested that dispersal is increased in edge habitats between fields and forest fragments in both males and females. Resistance modelling allowed us to identify likely dispersal corridors used by these two rabies hosts, which may prove especially helpful for surveillance and control (e.g. oral vaccination) activities. © 2014 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Fauteux D.,University of Quebec | Fauteux D.,Laval University | Cheveau M.,Direction generale de lexpertise sur la faune et ses habitats | Imbeau L.,University of Quebec | Drapeau P.,University of Quebec at Montreal
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2015

In Fennoscandia, red-backed vole populations (Myodes spp.) often show regular fluctuations of abundance of 3- to 5-year periods. In contrast, only a few populations show evidence of cyclic fluctuations in North America. From 2001 to 2009, we livetrapped southern red-backed voles (Myodes gapperi) in 3 mature jack pine and 3 mature black spruce forest stands in the Muskuchii hills region, Quebec, Canada. We found that their density fluctuated (up to 41-fold) with a cyclical pattern and 4-year periods. Our study is the first to demonstrate cyclic dynamics in a southern red-backed vole population found in the boreal forest of North America. Regular pulse of food or heavy predation may be responsible for the fluctuations of southern red-backed voles. Furthermore, vole cycles may help elucidate the factors driving the irruptions of owls in the boreal forest. © 2015 American Society of Mammalogists.

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