Why do hunters choose not to shoot?

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Enlarge / A red deer in Norway (credit: flickr user: Jörg Hempel)

Hunting animals, like deer, is often important to keeping their population at a reasonable size. In areas where natural predators are few or nonexistent, the only way to control populations of certain species is through human hunting.

Human hunters behave differently from natural predators though. For instance, natural predators aren’t interested in trophy hunting, so they don’t target animals that would look good on their walls. Natural predators also aren’t reluctant to kill the young, whereas human hunters tend to avoid this. And human hunters may make other decisions about what to kill based on factors we don’t really understand.

To understand how these factors might influence prey populations, a group of researchers in Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands published a paper that tries to predict hunters’ behavior.

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