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Keywords:

  • Steller sea lion;
  • Eumetopias jubatus;
  • dispersal;
  • rookery fidelity;
  • brand;
  • Alaska;
  • endangered;
  • metapopulation

Abstract

Over the past 24 yr, 8,596 Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) pups were branded on their natal rookeries throughout Alaska with the objectives of determining survival rates, recruitment, movements, and site fidelity. Our objectives here were to examine the extent of dispersal of Steller sea lions away from their natal rookeries, movements between stocks, and degree of natal rookery fidelity. Pups (<1 yr old) usually remained within 500 km of their natal rookery. Branded juveniles dispersed widely and were resighted at distances up to 1,785 km from their natal rookeries. Adults generally remained within 500 km of their natal rookeries. No interchange of breeding animals between the ES (eastern stock) and WS (western stock) was observed. Although natal rookery fidelity was prevalent, 33% of the 12 observations of females branded in the WS during 1987–1988 and 19% of the 29 observations of females branded in the ES during 1994–1995 were observed with newly born pups at sites other than their natal rookeries. Steller sea lions generally conformed to the metapopulation concept as depicted by Hanski and Simberloff (1997), with local breeding populations (rookeries) and movements among these local populations having the potential of affecting local dynamics.