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Boulevard Park, WA, United States

Cook R.C.,National Council for Air and Stream Improvement Inc. | Cook J.G.,National Council for Air and Stream Improvement Inc. | Vales D.J.,Muckleshoot Indian Tribe | Johnson B.K.,401 Gekeler Lane | And 15 more authors.
Wildlife Monographs | Year: 2013

Demographic data show many populations of Rocky Mountain (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and Roosevelt (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) elk have been declining over the last few decades. Recent work suggests that forage quality and associated animal nutritional condition, particularly in late summer and early autumn, influence reproduction and survival in elk. Therefore, we estimated seasonal nutritional condition of 861 female elk in 2,114 capture events from 21 herds in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota from 1998 to 2007. We estimated ingesta-free body fat and body mass, and determined age, pregnancy status, and lactation status. We obtained estimates for most herds in both late winter-early spring (late Feb-early Apr) and in autumn (Nov-early Dec) to identify changes in nutritional condition of individuals across seasons. Body fat levels of lactating females in autumn were consistently lower than their non-lactating counterparts, and herd averages of lactating elk ranged from 5.5% to 12.4%. These levels were 30-75% of those documented for captive lactating elk fed high-quality diets during summer and autumn. Body fat levels were generally lowest in the coastal and inland northwest regions and highest along the west-slope of the northern Cascades. Adult females in most herds lost an average of 30.7 kg (range: 5-62 kg), or about 13% (range: 2.6-25%) of their autumn mass during winter, indicating nutritional deficiencies. However, we found no significant relationships between spring body fat or change in body fat over winter with winter weather, region, or herd, despite markedly different winter weather among herds and regions. Instead, body fat levels in spring were primarily a function of fat levels the previous autumn. Thinner females in autumn lost less body fat and body mass over winter than did fatter females, a compensatory response, but still ended the season with less body fat than the fatter elk. Body fat levels of lactating females in autumn varied among herds but were unrelated to their body fat levels the previous spring. Within herds, thinner females exhibited a compensatory response during summer and accrued more fat than their fatter counterparts over summer, resulting in similar body fat levels among lactating elk in autumn despite considerable differences in their fat levels the previous spring. Level of body fat achieved by lactating females in autumn varied 2-fold among herds, undoubtedly because of differences in summer nutrition. Thus, summer nutrition set limits to rates of body fat accrual of lactating females that in turn limited body condition across the annual cycle. Pregnancy rates of 2- to 14-year-old females ranged from 68% to 100% in coastal populations of Washington, 69% to 98% in Cascade populations of Washington and Oregon, 84% to 94% in inland northwestern populations of Washington and Oregon, and 78% to 93% in Rocky Mountain populations. We found evidence of late breeding, even in herds with comparatively high pregnancy rates. Mean body mass of calves (n = 242) in 3 populations was 75 kg, 81 kg, and 97 kg, representing 55-70% of potential mass for 6- to 8-month-old calves on high-quality diets. Mean mass of 11 yearling females caught in autumn was 162 kg, approximately 70% of potential for autumn, and pregnancy rate was 27%. Mean mass of 28 yearlings caught in spring was 163 kg and pregnancy rate was 34%. Our data suggest widespread occurrence of inadequate summer nutrition. Summer ranges of just 3 herds supported relatively high levels of autumn body fat (11-13% body fat) and pregnancy rates (>90%) even among females that successfully raised a calf year after year. Most other summer ranges supported relatively low autumn levels of body fat (5-9% body fat), and reproductive pauses were common (<80% pregnancy rates). Overall, our data failed to support 2 common assumptions: 1) summer and early autumn foraging conditions are typically satisfactory to prevent nutritional limitations to adult fat accretion, pregnancy rates, and calf and yearling growth; and 2) winter nutrition and winter weather are the principal limiting effects on elk productivity. Instead, a strong interaction existed among level of summer nutrition, lactation status, and probability of breeding that was little affected by winter conditions - adequacy of summer nutrition dictated reproductive performance of female elk and growth as well as growth and development of their offspring in the Northwest and Rocky Mountains. Our work signals the need for greater emphasis on summer habitats in land management planning on behalf of elk. © 2013 The Wildlife Society. Source


Jager H.I.,Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Lepla K.B.,Idaho Power Company | van Winkle W.,Van Winkle Environmental Consulting | James B.W.,108 Grand Boulevard | McAdam S.O.,University of British Columbia
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society | Year: 2010

Damming of large rivers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Canada has divided the historical population of white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus into more than 36 fragmented populations, few of which are thriving. We now face the challenge of managing these populations to avoid extirpation. Two goals of this study were to identify extinction thresholds related to small size and inadequate habitat for this species. The minimum viable population size (MVP) is the threshold size above which populations support recruitment and grow and below which populations fail to support recruitment and decline. We estimated a single, cross-population MVP using data from multiple populations and quantile regression, which removed the effects of factors other than population size. Only two populations (those in the Bonneville and Dalles reservoirs on the Columbia River), both with significant increasing trends, were larger than our MVP estimate. We detected significant decreasing trends in two populations-those below Bonneville Dam and in the Kootenai River. To discover how site-specific differences in river habitat influence MVP, we used a population viability analysis (PVA) model that incorporated Allee mechanisms. The PVA model identified a river segment length below which extinction was certain regardless of initial population size. Above this threshold, simulated populations in river segments that were longer or that provided more frequent recruitment opportunities were able to persist with smaller initial sizes. Two priorities emerged for white sturgeon: monitoring age structure and understanding the circumstances preventing recruitment to age 1. Our results ultimately guided us toward thresholds in rearing habitat and age structure that promise to develop into more useful conservation tools than MVP for this and similar long-lived species. © by the American Fisheries Society 2010. Source


Lindley S.T.,Southwest Fisheries Science Center | Erickson D.L.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Moser M.L.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Williams G.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 10 more authors.
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society | Year: 2011

Green sturgeon Acipenser medirostris spend much of their lives outside of their natal rivers, but the details of their migrations and habitat use are poorly known, which limits our understanding of how this species might be affected by human activities and habitat degradation.We tagged 355 green sturgeon with acoustic transmitters on their spawning grounds and in known nonspawning aggregation sites and examined their movement among these sites and other potentially important locations using automated data-logging hydrophones. We found that green sturgeon inhabit a number of estuarine and coastal sites over the summer, including the Columbia River estuary, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, and the estuaries of certain smaller rivers in Oregon, especially the Umpqua River estuary. Green sturgeon from different natal rivers exhibited different patterns of habitat use; most notably, San Francisco Bay was used only by Sacramento River fish, while the Umpqua River estuary was used mostly by fish from the Klamath and Rogue rivers. Earlier work, based on analysis of microsatellite markers, suggested that the Columbia River mixed stock was mainly composed of fish from the Sacramento River, but our results indicate that fish from the Rogue and Klamath River populations frequently use the Columbia River as well. We also found evidence for the existence of migratory contingentswithin spawning populations.Our findings have significant implications for the management of the threatened Sacramento River population of green sturgeon, which migrates to inland waters outside of California where anthropogenic impacts, including fisheries bycatch and water pollution, may be a concern. Our results also illustrate the utility of acoustic tracking to elucidate the migratory behavior of animals that are otherwise difficult to observe. © American Fisheries Society 2011. Source


Cook R.C.,National Council for Air and Stream Improvement Inc. | Cook J.G.,National Council for Air and Stream Improvement Inc. | Stephenson T.R.,07 W Line Street | Myers W.L.,315 Discovery Place | And 8 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2010

Because they do not require sacrificing animals, body condition scores (BCS), thickness of rump fat (MAXFAT), and other similar predictors of body fat have advanced estimating nutritional condition of ungulates and their use has proliferated in North America in the last decade. However, initial testing of these predictors was too limited to assess their reliability among diverse habitats, ecotypes, subspecies, and populations across the continent. With data collected from mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), elk (Cervus elaphus), and moose (Alces alces) during initial model development and data collected subsequently from free-ranging mule deer and elk herds across much of the western United States, we evaluated reliability across a broader range of conditions than were initially available. First, to more rigorously test reliability of the MAXFAT index, we evaluated its robustness across the 3 species, using an allometric scaling function to adjust for differences in animal size. We then evaluated MAXFAT, rump body condition score (rBCS), rLIVINDEX (an arithmetic combination of MAXFAT and rBCS), and our new allometrically scaled rump-fat thickness index using data from 815 free-ranging female Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk (C. e. roosevelti and C. e. nelsoni) from 19 populations encompassing 4 geographic regions and 250 free-ranging female mule deer from 7 populations and 2 regions. We tested for effects of subspecies, geographic region, and captive versus free-ranging existence. Rump-fat thickness, when scaled allometrically with body mass, was related to ingesta-free body fat over a 38522-kg range of body mass (r2 0.87; P < 0.001), indicating the technique is remarkably robust among at least the 3 cervid species of our analysis. However, we found an underscoring bias with the rBCS for elk that had >12 body fat. This bias translated into a difference between subspecies, because Rocky Mountain elk tended to be fatter than Roosevelt elk in our sample. Effects of observer error with the rBCS also existed for mule deer with moderate to high levels of body fat, and deer body size significantly affected accuracy of the MAXFAT predictor. Our analyses confirm robustness of the rump-fat index for these 3 species but highlight the potential for bias due to differences in body size and to observer error with BCS scoring. We present alternative LIVINDEX equations where potential bias from rBCS and bias due to body size are eliminated or reduced. These modifications improve the accuracy of estimating body fat for projects intended to monitor nutritional status of herds or to evaluate nutrition's influence on population demographics. © The Wildlife Society. Source


Atlas W.I.,Simon Fraser University | Buehrens T.W.,108 Grand Boulevard | McCubbing D.J.F.,BC Research Inc. | Bison R.,Forest | Moore J.W.,Simon Fraser University
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2015

Changes in density-independent mortality can alter the spatial extent of populations through patch extinction and colonization, and spatial contraction may alter population productivity and compensatory capacity. Here, we analyze a time series of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) abundance and examine the hypothesis that spatial contraction can decrease compen- satory capacity. Over the last 20 years, steelhead in the Keogh River have declined by an order of magnitude because of a period of poor smolt-to-adult survival. Low abundance has been associated with more depressed production of out-migrating smolts than would be expected based on traditional models of compensatory dynamics. Patterns of juvenile density over time show changes in the spatial distribution of the population. We developed a spatially explicit population model to explore spatial structure and juvenile recruitment under varying marine survival. Results suggest that spatial contraction during a period of poor marine survival can strengthen density-dependent population regulation, reducing smolt production at the watershed scale. Our results highlight that spatial contraction can alter the fundamental density-dependent relationships that define population dynamics, recovery trajectories, and sustainable harvest levels of spatially structured populations. © 2015, National Research Council of Canada. All rights reserved. Source

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