Social constraints in cross-boundary collaborative deer management

Katrin Prager, Altea Lorenzo-Arribas, Hans Bull, Mikkel Slaaen Kvernstuen, Leif Egil Loe, Atle Mysterud

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The complex interactions between different spatial, temporal, and functional scales in social-ecological systems are recognized as a key challenge in sustainable management of natural resources. We analyze scale mismatches using the example of migratory red deer (Cervus elaphus) management. Hunting practices and organization of hunting are shaped by the social and institutional context rather than the biology and space use of the species. The collaboration among landowners across property boundaries is a potential solution to address scale mismatches but a number of social constraints need to be taken into account. Based on data from a survey of attitudes and perceptions of 509 Norwegian landowners we found a number of social constraints including differing interests and objectives for deer management, land tenure arrangements, weak links between actors at different levels, lower satisfaction with current deer management and cooperation at the higher (municipality) level, information asymmetry, and different perceptions of benefits and costs of cooperation. For example, 73% of respondents were satisfied with current management at the hunting field level (smallest management unit) but only 43% at the municipality level, which represents unit sizes necessary for deer management at the population level. Seventy percent of respondents hunt mainly for enjoyment and meat whereas 30% hunt to reduce crop damage; hence aggregation into larger management units may increase internal conflict among landowners with different objectives. Our results suggest that coordination of management across property boundaries is a more realistic aim than merging of units. Given that income from hunting in Norway is generally low, we anticipate that financial incentives are unlikely to have a large impact on landowners’ willingness to cooperate. Instead, we make suggestions for enhancing existing nested governance arrangements and institutional interplay to support scale alignment by means of developing shared management objectives, and creating learning and knowledge sharing opportunities facilitated by an intermediary.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by the Norwegian Research Council as part of the DeerUnit project (Grant number 230275). We are very grateful to all landowners who took part in the survey. We would also like to acknowledge comments from Vebjørn Veiberg on a previous draft.


  • cooperation
  • hunting
  • intermediary
  • red deer management
  • scale mismatch


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