Wherever carnivores are present in a hunting area, they are blamed for reducing ungulate numbers. In the past, predator control was often carried out to promote game species (Filonov,1989; Jędrzejewska et al., 1996; Jędrzejewski et al., 1996). By contrast, in regions where large predators have long been exterminated, ungulate numbers show pronounced fluctuations between years and their high densities are accused of damaging forest regeneration and farmland crops or reducing biodiversity (Chapter 6 this volume, and references therein). Recently, protection or restitution of top predators has been viewed as a necessary step towards conservation of ecosystem biodiversity (Ray, 2005). In this chapter, we review the results of European studies on large carnivore predation on ungulates. We attempt to point out what practical implications for game management have emerged from those studies. We also briefly present the theoretical predictions regarding predator–prey relationships.
Ungulate populations are influenced by many factors. Food supply (connected with habitat productivity) determines how many individuals can live and reproduce in a given area (Sinclair, 2003). Severe winter conditions may directly cause deaths (Okarma et al., 1995; Del Giudice et al., 2002; Jonas et al., 2008), but climate also has indirect effects through altering food availability (Jonas et al., 2008). Predators, diseases, hunters and road traffic are important factors of mortality (Gazzola et al., 2005; Chapters 8 and 11 this volume).