Timing of translocation influences birth rate and population dynamics in a forest carnivore

By: , and 



Timing can be critical for many life history events of organisms. Consequently, the timing of management activities may affect individuals and populations in numerous and unforeseen ways. Translocations of organisms are used to restore or expand populations but the timing of translocations is largely unexplored as a factor influencing population success. We hypothesized that the process of translocation negatively influences reproductive rates of individuals that are moved just before their birthing season and, therefore, the timing of releases could influence translocation success. Prior to reintroducing fishers (Pekania pennanti) into northern California and onto the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, we predicted that female fishers released in November and December (early) would have a higher probability of giving birth to kits the following March or April than females released in January, February, and March (late), just prior to or during the period of blastocyst implantation and gestation. Over four winters (2008–2011), we translocated 56 adult female fishers that could have given birth in the spring immediately after release. Denning rates, an index of birth rate, for females released early were 92% in California and 38% in Washington. In contrast, denning rates for females released late were 40% and 11%, in California and Washington, a net reduction in denning rate of 66% across both sites. To understand how releasing females nearer to parturition could influence population establishment and persistence, we used stochastic population simulations using three-stage Lefkovitch matrices. These simulations showed that translocating female fishers early had long-term positive influences on the mean population size and on quasi-extinction thresholds compared to populations where females were released late. The results from both empirical data and simulations show that the timing of translocation, with respect to life history events, should be considered during planning of translocations and implemented before the capture, movement, and release of organisms for translocation.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Timing of translocation influences birth rate and population dynamics in a forest carnivore
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.1223
Volume 7
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description e01223; 18 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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