Contrasting population trends at two Razorbill colonies in Atlantic Canada: additive effects of fox predation and hunting mortality

Jennifer L. Lavers, Ian L. Jones, Gregory J. Robertson, Anthony W. Diamond

Avian Conservation and Ecology 4: 1-17 (2009)

We developed a stochastic, stage-based, matrix-projection population model to assess population viability and estimate the impact of mortality caused by hunting, illegal and incidental to the murre (Uria sp.) hunt, and fox (Alopex lagopus) predation on Razorbill (Alca torda) populations breeding on the Gannet Islands, Labrador, the “affected” population, and Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, the “unaffected” population. We estimated the potential population growth rate in the absence of anthropogenic mortality sources by using juvenile survival estimates from the relatively unaffected Machias Seal Island Razorbill population. We used data collected on fox predation on the Gannet Islands from 1978–2009 to estimate the change in productivity as a result of fox presence. The intrinsic growth rate (λ) of the stochastic matrix based on vital rates from the Gannet Islands was 0.957±0.008 and 1.058±0.005 for Machias Seal Island. Hunting mortality reduced the predicted Gannet Islands population growth rate by 0.033, while fox predation reduced population growth rate by 0.017. These sources combined reduced the baseline population growth rate by 0.050. According to our model, the Razorbill population on Machias Seal Island appears to be growing rapidly. In contrast, the Gannet Islands population may decline, likely because of hunting. However, oceanographic differences between the two areas and uncertainty regarding dispersal behavior in this species may also contribute to the disparity between populations. Based on our findings, we make several recommendations for the conservation and management of Razorbills in Atlantic Canada