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Biol Lett. 2007 Feb 22;3(1):106-8.

Harvesting of males delays female breeding in a socially monogamous mammal; the beaver.

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Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Environmental and Health Studies, Telemark College, 3800 Bø i Telemark, Norway.


Human exploitation may skew adult sex ratios in vertebrate populations to the extent that males become limiting for normal reproduction. In polygynous ungulates, females delay breeding in heavily harvested populations, but effects are often fairly small. We would expect a stronger effect of male harvesting in species with a monogamous mating system, but no such study has been performed. We analysed the effect of harvesting males on the timing of reproduction in the obligate monogamous beaver (Castor fiber). We found a negative impact of harvesting of adult males on the timing of parturition in female beavers. The proportion of normal breeders sank from over 80%, when no males had been shot in the territories of pregnant females, to under 20%, when three males had been shot. Harvesting of males in monogamous mammals can apparently affect their normal reproductive cycle.

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