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Abundance estimate and seasonal patterns of grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) occurrence in Brittany, France, as assessed by photo-identification and capture-mark-recapture
Gerondeau, M.; Barbraud, C.; Ridoux, V.; Vincent, C. (2007). Abundance estimate and seasonal patterns of grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) occurrence in Brittany, France, as assessed by photo-identification and capture-mark-recapture. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. Spec. Issue 87(1): 365-372.
In: Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Cambridge University Press/Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom: Cambridge. ISSN 0025-3154, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Gerondeau, M.
  • Barbraud, C.
  • Ridoux, V.
  • Vincent, C.

    It has been suggested that the large grey seal colonies around the British Isles form local populations within a metapopulation, and that seal movements outside the breeding season lead to considerable overlap between individual home ranges. Individual behaviour and population dynamics of small peripheral colonies may also play a role in the metapopulation. We studied the French grey seal colony of the Molène archipelago, at the southern-most limit of the species' range. We analysed photo-identification data with capture-mark- recapture techniques in order to estimate the total seasonal abundance of grey seals in the archipelago and to quantify the seasonal rates of occurrence or movements of male and female seals. We found that between 58 (95% confidence interval: 48-71) and 98 (95% CI: 75-175) individuals hauled out in the archipelago during the summers of 1999 and 2000. The use of multistate models allowed the assessment of seasonal site fidelity and indicated that it varied between key periods of the annual cycle, particularly for females. Males showed a constant fidelity rate of 56% from one season to another. Hence, even though they showed high inter-annual site fidelity, they did not seem to have a preferred season for using the archipelago. On the contrary, female grey seals showed the highest site fidelity between moult and summer (around 80%), and the lowest fidelity between summer and the breeding period (34-43%). Thus, females seem to use the Molène archipelago preferentially in summer and leave the site before the breeding season, which explains the very low local pup production. Philopatry may explain this pre-breeding emigration, and we suggest that most grey seals observed in the Molène archipelago were born and breed in other local breeding populations, probably the south-western British Isles.

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