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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/361

Title: Population limitation in arctic ground squirrels: effects of food and predation
Authors: Hubbs, Anne J.
Boonstra, Rudy
Keywords: boreal forest
population limitation
predator switching
population cycles
Issue Date: 1997
Publisher: British Ecological Society
Citation: Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 66, No. 4. (Jul., 1997), pp. 527-541.
Abstract: 1. We examined the relative importance of food and predators in limiting Arctic ground squirrel (Spermophilus parryii plesius Richardson) populations in the boreal forest of the southwestern Yukon during the peak and early decline of a snowshoe hare cycle (Lepus americanus Erxleben). 2. Squirrels were live-trapped from 1990 to 1992 on two control grids and three experimental treatments (food addition, mammalian and avian predator exclosure, and food addition plus mammalian predator exclosure). Adult squirrels were radiocollared on all areas in 1992. 3. Food addition increased densities 3-8 times, generally increased reproductive traits (increased proportion of females lactating, doubled recruited litter sizes, resulted in earlier emergence of juveniles), increased immigration rates (but only in 1992), resulted in heavier females though not males at emergence in spring, and resulted in more rapid growth rates of juvenile males, but not of juvenile females. It had no effect on active season or overwinter survival rates. 4. Exclusion of predators had virtually no effect on any demographic variable measured, except for population densities in 1991 when they were approximately double those of the control populations. 5. Food addition plus exclusion of mammalian predators resulted in demographic changes that were comparable to those of food addition alone. 6. Thus, it appeared that food, not predators, limited ground squirrel populations at this stage of the hare cycle. However, independent of experimental treatment, active season survival of adult squirrels declined markedly from 1990 (high hare numbers) to 1992 (low hare numbers). Most of the radiocollared squirrels disappearing in 1992 were killed by predators and this was coincident with high densities of predators. In the predator exclosures, all predation mortalities resulted from avian predators which we could not exclude. 7. We conclude that both food and predators interact to limit Arctic ground squirrel populations during the peak and early decline of the hare cycle.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/361
Appears in Collections:Biology

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