Predation of released pheasants Phasianus colchicus on lowland farmland in the UK and the effect of predator control

  • Rufus B. Sage
  • Clare V. Turner
  • Maureen I. A. Woodburn
  • Andrew N. Hoodless
  • Roger A. H. Draycott
  • Nicolas W. Sotherton
Original Article

Abstract

We present data accumulated over the last 25 years on predation of radio-tracked released pheasants. In studies of birds during the autumn/winter at six pheasant shoots with high-density releases managed by full-time gamekeepers, predation of released pheasants by foxes before the shooting season began (July–September) averaged 19.2 ± 4.0% per site, and during the shooting season (October 1st–February 1st), a further 15.9 ± 1.9% were predated. The range in 3-year average predation rates between sites before shooting began was 8.6 to 42.4%. At seven different sites during the spring and summer, between 20 and 71% of released or wild hens that survived the shooting season were predated, mainly by foxes, between mid-March and mid-July. Predation was significantly higher at sites with low-level predator control (59 ± 4.7%) compared to those with high-level control (30 ± 5.3%). At three of the four sites with low predator control between 5 and 22% of nest failures were caused by incubating hens being predated by foxes. Our data quantify for the first time highly variable predation rates of released pheasants before and during the winter shooting season which we suggest was influenced by a range of site and management factors. During the spring and summer, our data provide evidence that predation of adult hen pheasants as well as nest predation can suppress breeding success and that predator control can reduce these losses.

Keywords

Common pheasant Gamebird Ground nesting Pheasant survival Radio tracking Red fox Shooting 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Game & Wildlife Conservation TrustFordingbridgeUK

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