Understanding the colonization or recolonization of breeding sites used by colonial animals is fundamental to metapopulation theory and has practical applications in conservation biology. Historically, pinniped species were heavily exploited worldwide, resulting in some breeding colonies becoming extirpated. As populations recover, some abandoned sites may be recolonized or new sites can be colonized. We analyzed aerial and ground survey data on pup counts from 3 islands (South Farallon, San Miguel, and Bogoslof) (re)colonized by northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus), using classical and Bayesian state-space modeling approaches to describe population growth rates during their initial 21 years, with particular focus on the South Farallon Islands. We used information from tagged animals that immigrated to the South Farallon Islands from San Miguel Island to describe the age and sex structure of the founding recolonizers of the South Farallon Islands. We also examined the evidence for the generality of Roux's (1987) description of fur seal population recovery using a literature review of published fur seal population growth rates. We found the 3 colonies had different annual population growth rates (South Farallon = 34%, San Miguel = 45%, Bogoslof = 59%), but all were growing at rates among the fastest observed for fur seals worldwide. Immigrants from San Miguel to the South Farallon Islands were younger and female-biased relative to the tagged population at San Miguel Island. The general framework described by Roux (1987) was an effective description of observed fur seal population recovery. Our results inform our understanding of the initiation and growth of pinniped breeding colonies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Nature and Landscape Conservation