Implications of goat eradication on the survivorship of the Galapagos hawk


  • Associate Editor: David Euler


Non-native mammals cause ecological disasters in island ecosystems and their eradication is usually considered beneficial to native biodiversity. Goats (Capra hircus) were introduced to Santiago Island, Galapagos, Ecuador, in the early 1800s, and their numbers increased to about 100,000 by 1970. A goat eradication campaign initiated in 2002 was successful, eliminating the last individuals in 2006. To evaluate the effects of goat eradication, between 1998 and 2010 we studied the Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) population on Santiago Island before, during, and after eradication. We used a 12-year data set in a capture–mark–recapture analysis to estimate the apparent survivorship of territorial adults in 33 breeding territories, and a 5-year data set to estimate the population sizes of the floater (non-territorial) fraction of the population. Juvenile floaters showed a drastic decline starting in 2006 and continuing in 2007, 2008, and 2010, which we attribute to the completion of goat eradication in 2006, and subsequent habitat changes. We found a significant decline in adult survivorship after the goat eradication program. Additionally, group size positively affected adult survivorship in this cooperatively polyandrous raptor, presumably reflecting the benefit of shared defense and offspring provisioning during harsher conditions. The changes in the hawk population after goat eradication are an example of unforeseen consequences of a restoration program, and we hypothesize that these changes are adjustments towards a new equilibrium under the current ecosystem characteristics and capacity. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.