Variability in haul-out behaviour by male Australian sea lions Neophoca cinerea in the Perth metropolitan area, Western Australia
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© The authors 2015. Pinnipeds spend significant time hauled out, and their haul-out behaviour can be dependent on environment and life stage. In Western Australia, male Australian sea lions Neo - phoca cinerea haul out on Perth metropolitan islands, with numbers peaking during aseasonal (~17.4 mo in duration), non-breeding periods. Little is known about daily haul-out patterns and their association with environmental conditions. Such detail is necessary to accurately monitor behavioural patterns and local abundance, ultimately improving long-term conservation management, particularly where, due to lack of availability, typical pup counts are infeasible. Hourly counts of N. cinerea were conducted from 08:00 to 16:00 h on Seal and Carnac Islands for 166 d over 2 yr, including 2 peak periods. Generalised additive models were used to determine effects of temporal and environmental factors on N. cinerea haul-out numbers. On Seal Island, numbers increased significantly throughout the day during both peak periods, but only did so in the second peak on Carnac. During non-peak periods there were no significant daytime changes. Despite high day-to-day variation, a greater and more stable number of N. cinerea hauled out on the significantly smaller beach of Seal Island during 1 peak. Overall, numbers hauled out were associated with temperature and tidal height, but not wind speed. Relative percentages of age classes hauled out also varied with time of breeding cycle. Due to high variability in haul-out behaviour in space and time, and its association with environmental conditions, we conclude that counts for monitoring relative abundance in management decisions should be conducted systematically, using robust survey designs with relatively large sample sizes.
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