Results from a 30-year study bears suggest that regulated hunting is playing a 'pivotal role' in shaping the life history of Scandianvian brown bears, former scholars at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) found.

The report, published in the scholarly journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, is one of several articles produced by the scholars who participated in the CAS project Climate Effects on Harvested Large Mammal Populations, housed at the Centre during the 2015/16 academic year.

Looking at the data, the scholars found that hunting mortality was the leading cause of death once the bears reached adulthood. From age three and up, hunting claimed the lives of more than 70 percent of the beras in the Swedish study area.

While the scholars do not touch the debate about how or if countries should hunt their carnivore populations, they argue that regulated hunting affects wildlife in more ways that just the removal of individuals; it changes demographic patterns and can potentially even drive evolutionary change.

'Our study revealed that regulated hunting has severely disrupted the interplay between age-specific survival and environmental factors, altered the consequences of reproductive strategies, and changed reproductive values and life expectancy in a population of the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore,' the scholars write. 'Protection and sustainable management have led to numerical recovery of several populations of large carnivores, but managers and policymakers should be aware of the extent to which regulated hunting may be influencing vital rates, thereby reshaping the life history of apex predators.'

Richard Bischof, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), was one of the scholars who participated in the CAS project. He served as lead author of the study.

'For us, the year at CAS Oslo was a unique opportunity to collaborate in a very stimulating and diverse setting,' Bischof said. 'It brought together scientists from different disciplines, and it opened up many new perspectives.'