There is much talk of the recovery of emblematic species such as the lynx, the bear or the imperial eagle – fortunately – in recent years in an optimistic way, since, against all odds, the populations of these species have increased. Your money has cost. But, what happens to the most representative species of our small game species?
The case of the hare , for example, is worrying; and in traditional areas of abundance, their populations have decreased dramatically in some cases. The galgueros know that well.
Repeated vole poisoning campaigns have contributed, in addition to other problems arising from modern agriculture.
The efforts to recover the aforementioned emblematic species are commendable, but in the case of eagles and lynxes, they would be wasted if the situation of the rabbit is not addressed before . The importance of this lagomorph in Mediterranean habitats is unquestionable, but the management of its populations is conflicting; and while in some areas there is talk of pests due to demographic explosions, in others it has completely disappeared, which requires scrupulous and adjusted management of their populations.
Probably the most worrying case is that of the wild partridge. The red partridge , a bird that should be the representative icon of this country, becomes extinct in the wild .
The most decisive causes in this disappearance are linked to industrial agriculture that is currently implanted, and its main enemy, after the agrochemical industry – or perhaps before it – is the farm partridge.
Recently we gave the news of the release, by the Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre, of 600 partridges in 4000 hectares of farms in Extremadura and Castilla y León to recover the populations of the Iberian imperial eagle, which gives an idea of the lack of rigor and of the arbitrariness in the actions of groups supposedly familiar with the problems related to the environment.
We must not shirk our responsibility as hunters . It is rare to hear a hunter say that he prefers farm partridges to wild ones; However, the vast majority succumb to the temptation to drop partridges in their preserves, and it is very rare that commercial organizations consider another option.
Despite everything, there is still room for optimism. Our partridge is a bird of hard and adaptable nature and its populations respond very positively with a minimum of care. Furthermore, there are still hunters and organizations truly committed to the recovery of the wild partridge.
We received a press release announcing the proposal to carry out a five-year project, led by the Extremadura Hunting Federation and the Artemisan Foundation . This project joins the one previously presented by the Federation to create an Operational Group of innovation ‘Convergent and Resilient Agriculture’.
In this work, a series of actions would be applied on an experimental basis in an Extremadura farm aimed at improving small game populations, which would be closely monitored to determine their effectiveness.
Given the importance and repercussion, mainly on the red partridge, that this type of initiative can have, we have decided to dedicate a space in the Trophy to report on this matter and encourage the hunter to carry out in his preserve the most interesting improvements that are revealed as such.
We now go on to describe the actions to be carried out in this project and some additional proposals.
EXPERIMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN A FARM EXTREMEÑA
The farm in question is representative of the Extremaduran countryside and has the agroforestry farms characteristic of the Mediterranean environment, such as the pastureland, rainfed and irrigated fields, and extensive sheep and pig cattle that coexist with the most representative minor hunting species. of our fauna, such as the red partridge (Alectoris rufa) , the wild rabbit (Orytolagus cuniculus) and the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) .
The objective of the project is to apply and monitor a series of hunting management measures related to the improvement of the habitat, the supplementary contribution of water and food and the control of predators, and aimed at recovering and conserving populations of game species. minor and to promote research, education, training and collaboration with neighboring preserves.
We now turn to the proposed measures in more detail.
EXAMPLE OF POSSIBLE DISTRIBUTION OF HABITAT IMPROVEMENTS
One of the great problems of species linked to the Mediterranean agricultural environment is the loss of landscape diversity. To amend it as far as possible, this initiative proposes a series of actions.
Based on the information submitted by the promoters of this project, we have carried out a recreation of the possible improvements and their distribution in an imaginary farm of between 1500 and 2000 ha, with part dedicated to agriculture, another part to pasture land and another part of forest.
One of the proposals of the Extremadura project is the installation of ‘wing’ loops to capture predators in a large part of the perimeter of the farm, reaching an approximate length of 7,800 meters.
For the control of predators, other authorized methods will be used, in addition to ties, such as trap boxes or shotguns all year round, especially during the breeding season (spring and summer).
The location of the drinkers will depend on the availability of water in summer and the existence of pairs of partridges in the spring censuses.
Although, as in the example, there are streams and food for a large part of the year, in this project it is considered essential to ensure the availability of both in times of famine, especially during reproduction.
There are many systems to build drinking fountains with drums, cisterns, and buoy mechanisms that feed containers or rafts. The project recommends the use of tanks of at least 100 liters.
The one that we will detail, although somewhat small, is simple and inexpensive.
To build it, you only need a 25 or 30-liter stackable drum and a large plate to fit it.
Drill holes on both sides of the 10 or 12 mm drum handle, fill it with water – if you add a little anti-algae, the better – and place it upside down on the plate.
The water will fill the plate to the holes and, due to the action of the vacuum, it will not continue to come out until it evaporates or the animals lower the level, causing more air to flow in and out.
It is important that the dish is just right to minimize evaporation.
A large stone will prevent it from being overturned by the wind.
How to make a natural drinking fountain in 5 steps
The ridges (beetle-banks) are raised linear mounds in the ground where different types of tufted wild grasses are sown –that is, they are born from the same plant foot–, along with other plant species, such as cañuelas and lastones, and others of greater size, such as broom and genist, to a lesser extent.
In the grazed or forest areas, small planting bands of leguminous species of between half and one hectare will be made, at a rate of one every 10 hectares, which will not be treated with plant protection products.
The boundaries are strips that, when left unplanted, grow natural herbaceous communities in the area. The project proposes the creation of boundaries between the different plots and the maintenance of those that already exist: boundaries, fences, walls (in the photo) and roads.
The huts are artificial shelters made with the remains of pruning in which birds, small mammals and reptiles can take refuge. They will be arranged in a row every 75-100 meters along the boundaries and ridges.
Untreated cultivation strips
Cultivation bands five meters wide without treating with herbicides or pesticides along boundaries and ridges will be respected, which will favor the growth of poppies and wild herbs, as well as insects. These ecotones or transition zones provide shelter and food in the form of seeds and insects.
The existence of insects in the first days of life of partridge chickens and other granivorous species is essential.
The use of armored seeds will also be avoided, due to the already demonstrated negative consequences for granivorous species.
A respectful agriculture with the fauna
The Extremadura project points to the crucial importance of adjusting the tillage schedule with the reproduction of the species of interest, and it is recommended that harvesting begin once it has been observed that the partridge moths have already left the nest.
It is also urged to carry out the harvesting tasks during the day and to make an effort to locate nests during mowing, creating ‘stands’ in case they find nests around them.
The figure of a game warden
A professional game warden is considered essential to perform selective and effective predator control; and as a deterrent for poachers and a key piece to reduce the discomfort derived from human activities.
RESEARCH, EDUCATION, TRAINING AND COLLABORATION. ANOTHER PILLAR FOR SUCCESS
In order to assess the effect of the management carried out, research work will be carried out on the presence and density of the populations of the species under study and others – such as those of insects – that have not been studied in depth.
This project and the farm setting where it will be carried out will serve for education and training in hunting management. In this sense, it is planned to organize visits to schools and institutes, as well as technical visits – for guards, hunters, managers, scientists and technicians of the Administration – and practical activities for university students.
Carrying out a joint action with neighboring preserves is essential for the consolidation of the project’s success, so collaboration with its owners or managers is intended.