Functional and numerical responses of predators to cyclic lemming abundance: effects on loss of goose nests

  • Wilson D
  • Bromley R
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Abstract

The alternative-prey hypothesis predicts that predation on goose eggs will be most severe the year following a lemming peak. We tested this by investigating how predators of goose eggs responded to lemming abundance on the Kent Peninsula, Nunavut, Canada, where nest success of white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) and Canada geese (Branta canadensis hutchinsii) fluctuates widely. The main predators of both goose eggs and lemmings are arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus), glaucous gulls (Larus hyperboreus), and parasitic jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus). Foxes responded functionally to lemming density: in prime goose-nesting areas they spent less time foraging during the peak lemming year than during the increase, and were seen foraging in prime nesting areas less often during the peak than during the decline. However, numbers of fox sightings in the study area during the nesting period did not differ significantly among years. The total response (functional × numerical) of gulls was lowest at the lem...

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Authors

  • Deborah J. Wilson

  • Robert G. Bromley

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