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- Assessing the relationship between gulls Larus spp. and Pacific salmon in central California using radiotelemetry
- Predation by marine birds has resulted in substantial losses to runs of Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp., in some cases necessitating management action. Recovery of PIT tages on a seabird breeding colony (Ano Nuevo Island) indicated that western gulls Larus occidentalis prey upon federally listed Coho Salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch and steelhead O. mykiss in central California. Whereas salmonid populations in central California have decreased in recent decades, the western gull population on Ano Nuevo Island has increased. We observed gulls Larus spp. within estuaries to document predation and used radiotelemetry to examine gull movement in relation to the availability of salmonids. During 2008 and 2009, observed predation events of out-migrating salmonids by gulls were rare; 21 events occurred during 338 h of observations at two estuaries. During the prehatch and chick-rearing phases of breeding, which coincided with migration of salmonids from fresh to salt water, 74% of the detections of radio-tagged western gulls occurred within 25 km of Ano Nuevo Island, suggesting that the relative susceptibility of predation by western gulls using Ano Nuevo Island decreased with distance from the island. Western gull presence at creek mouths was greatest during daylight hours (91% of detections), while juvenile salmonids were present predominantly at night (65% of detections). The greatest overlap between western gulls and salmonids occurred at dusk, and predation of out-migrating salmonids was likely opportunistic. Deterring gulls from creek mouths when overalp between predation and prey might otherwise occur may buffer out-migrating salmonids from predation. Our results will inform management strategies to most effectively reduce the impacts of gull predation on central California salmonids.
- Frechette, Osterback, Hayes, Moore, Shaffer, Pavelka, Winchell, Harvey