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Modeling haul-out behavior of walruses in Bering Sea ice

January 1, 2009

Understanding haul-out behavior of ice-associated pinnipeds is essential for designing and interpreting popula-tion surveys and for assessing effects of potential changes in their ice environments. We used satellite-linked transmitters to obtain sequential information about location and haul-out state for Pacific walruses, Odobenus rosmarus divergens (Il-liger, 1815), in the Bering Sea during April of 2004, 2005, and 2006. We used these data in a generalized mixed model of haul-out bout durations and a hierarchical Bayesian model of haul-out probabilities to assess factors related to walrus haul-out behavior, and provide the first predictive model of walrus haul-out behavior in sea ice habitat. Average haul-out bout duration was 9 h, but durations of haul-out bouts tended to increase with durations of preceding in-water bouts. On aver-age, tagged walruses spent only about 17% of their time hauled out on sea ice. Probability of being hauled out decreased with wind speed, increased with temperature, and followed a diurnal cycle with the highest values in the evening. Our haul-out probability model can be used to estimate the proportion of the population that is unavailable for detection in spring surveys of Pacific walruses on sea ice.

Publication Year 2009
Title Modeling haul-out behavior of walruses in Bering Sea ice
DOI 10.1139/Z09-098
Authors Mark S. Udevitz, Chadwick V. Jay, Anthony S. Fischbach, J. L. Garlich-Miller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Canadian Journal of Zoology
Index ID 70035903
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center