The current and future management of wild mammals hunted with dogs in England and Wales
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There is increasing concern about the use of lethal methods to control wild mammal populations, especially those methods that may have significant impacts on animal welfare. The continued use of dogs to hunt wild mammals in England and Wales, principally foxes (Vulpes vulpes), red deer (Cervus elaphus), brown hares (Lepus europaeus) and mink (Mustela vison), has become a focus for political debate and has been the subject of a recent UK government inquiry. This paper reports the results of a questionnaire study to quantify the use, effectiveness and acceptability of the different methods currently used to manage these four species, and future changes in management following a possible ban on hunting with dogs. There was no straightforward relationship between culling pressure and perceived pest status of the different species from the questionnaire data. For foxes and brown hares, the proportion of land managers (practitioners) carrying out lethal control was higher than that considering these species to be pests. However, the reverse was the case for mink. The most frequently used and effective control methods, which were most acceptable to practitioners and public alike, were various forms of shooting. The general public perceived hunting with dogs as one of the least acceptable means of control for all four species. Practitioners thought that hunting with dogs for red deer and the use of terriers against foxes were among the least acceptable forms of control, but considered hunting with dogs in other situations and for other species to be relatively acceptable. Most practitioners said a ban on hunting with dogs would make no difference to their management of the four species. A ban on hunting with dogs would have minimal impact on populations of foxes, red deer and mink, but it may be of conservation benefit to hares.
Journal of Environmental Management