SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • pupping phenology;
  • demography;
  • molting period;
  • harbor seals;
  • Phoca vitulina richardsi;
  • population decline;
  • Gulf of Alaska;
  • food abundance and availability

Abstract

The number of seals on shore at Tugidak Island (Gulf of Alaska) declined 72%–85% between 1976 and 1988 and increased during the 1990s. We compared pupping phenology and the ratio of pupping-period counts to molting-period counts between declining (1976–1979) and increasing (1994–1998) years, and examined the sex/age structure of seals ashore during the 1990s. In the 1970s the onset and peak of pupping occurred 6–18 d later than in the 1990s. Rate of pup abandonment was higher in 1978 than in the 1990s. Between 1994 and 1995, the maximum and mean number of seals ashore increased >50%, largely due to an increase in non-pups. From 1995 to 1998, the sex/age structure of seals ashore was similar among years. We observed three to four times as many seals during the molting period than during the pupping period in the 1970s, whereas similar numbers were ashore during these periods in the 1990s, perhaps reflecting changes in demography and/or haul-out behavior. Changes in pupping phenology and demography may reflect environmental changes, such as food availability, and when monitored in conjunction with population counts, may help us better interpret changes in the number of seals ashore.