Effects of female body mass and climate on reproduction in northern wild boar
19 June 2018Bergqvist, Göran; Paulson, Sam; Elmhagen, Bodil
Mammalian life history strategies depend on climate conditions. Hence, reproductive parameters may vary regionally, and knowledge on such patterns are important for sustainable management.
Wild boar research has been biased towards south and central Europe. Here we investigate the effects of mother´s carcass mass, season and climate (summer temperature and precipitation as well as January temperature) on pregnancy rate and litter size in 601 free-ranging female wild boar from hemiboreal Sweden, close to the north border of wild boar distribution range in Europe. Pregnancy rate was on average 33.4 ± 1.94% (mean ± SE), whereas average litter size of pregnant females was 4.7 ± 0.12. Pregnancy rate was highest during the seasonal reproduction peak in winter and spring, and both pregnancy rate and litter size increased significantly with increasing female body mass. The probability of a female being pregnant exceeded 50% when carcass mass exceeded 58 kg, equivalent to a live mass of 113 kg, and litter size increased by one for each 16 kg increase in female carcass mass. We found no significant effects of temporal variations in climate, and suggest that such variations were not sufficiently large to affect wild boar reproduction. Alternatively, the reproductive strategy of wild boar may be adjusted to prevailing regional climate conditions. In that case, other life history traits, such as mortality, may be more sensitive to short-term climate fluctuations. Wild boar management needs to take temporal variations in reproduction, as well as in resource availability, into consideration when deciding on prudent management actions.