Seasonal, meteorological, tidal and diurnal effects on haul-out patterns of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in Iceland
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It is of critical importance to identify factors that affect harbour seal haul-out patterns to improve the accuracy of harbour seal censuses. In this study, haul-out patterns of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) were investigated during different conditions at several major haul-out sites on Vatnsnes peninsula, NW Iceland (65°40′N and 20°48′W), over the 2008–2011 period. A seasonal haul-out pattern was detected among the seals, with the maximum number of seals on land found in July for most of the sites. Analyses of data for harbour seals on Vatnsnes indicate that the main pupping period occurs during late May to the beginning of June and moulting during late July to early August. Abundance at the sites increased with rising air temperature and decreased with increased windspeed and rising tides. However, no evidence that precipitation or cloud cover affected haul-out behaviour of the seals was detected. The diel haul-out pattern was investigated thoroughly in one of the haul-out sites and the results underlined the effect of tidal flucturation, air temperature and wind direction on the haul-out behaviour of harbour seals in the area. Results from this study can be used to improve the survey design when estimating the population size of harbour seals in Iceland and applied more broadly to the study of haul-out behaviour of harbour seals.
KeywordsHarbour seal Haul-out Diurnal pattern GLM Iceland
We would like to thank Helgi Gudjonsson, Ester Cacho Sanchez, Laila Arranda Romero and Eva Haunss for assistance in the field. Thanks to the landsowners at Vatnsnes, especially at Illugastadir and Hindisvík. Earlier versions of this manuscript were improved by comments from Anders Angerbjörn, Ian Bytheway and anonymous reviewers.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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