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Detecting an increase in an Endangered huemul Hippocamelus bisulcus population following removal of cattle and cessation of poaching in coastal Patagonia, Chile

  • Cristóbal Briceño (a1), Leslie A. Knapp (a2), Alejandra Silva (a3), José Paredes (a3), Iván Avendaño (a3), Aliro Vargas (a3), Juan Sotomayor (a1) and Alejandro R. Vila (a1)...

The conservation of threatened species poses many challenges but through cooperation and pooling of resources, individuals and organizations can work together to achieve better results. Here we describe our experience, working through a governmental and private alliance, studying one of the most threatened mammals in the Southern Cone. The huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus, one of two members of the Hippocamelus genus of South America, is endemic to Argentina and Chile and currently inhabits only a small fraction of its former range. Little is known about the huemul because it generally lives in remote areas with a harsh climate and rugged terrain. Using drive counts and fixed width transects over 5 consecutive years (2004–2008) we estimated density and abundance, and examined population changes and social structure, in three coastal huemul populations in the area of the Témpanos and Bernardo fjords of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, Chile. Our results suggest that synergistic conservation actions, such as cattle removal and poaching control, can lead to the recovery of threatened huemul. The baseline information obtained from our surveys and the lessons learned through this governmental and private alliance will be useful for future monitoring of the huemul in the Patagonian fjords of Chile.

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