Systemwide Evaluation of Avian Predation on Juvenile Salmonids from the Columbia River Based on Recoveries of Passive Integrated Transponder Tags

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  • We recovered passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags from nine piscivorous waterbird colonies in the Columbia River basin to evaluate avian predation on Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmonid Oncorhynchus spp. populations during 2007–2010. Avian predation rates were calculated based on the percentage of PIT-tagged juvenile salmonids that were detected as passing hydroelectric dams and subsequently were consumed and deposited by birds on their nesting colonies. Caspian terns Hydroprogne caspia (hereafter, “terns”) and double-crested cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus (hereafter, “cormorants”) nesting on East Sand Island in the Columbia River estuary consumed the highest proportions of available PIT-tagged salmonids, with minimum predation rates ranging from 2.5% for Willamette River spring Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha to 16.0% for Snake River steelhead O. mykiss. Estimated predation rates by terns, cormorants, gulls of two species (California gull Larus californicus and ring-billed gull L. delawarensis), and American white pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchos nesting near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers were also substantial; minimum predation rates ranged from 1.4% for Snake River fall Chinook salmon to 13.2% for upper Columbia River steelhead. Predation on ESA-listed salmonids by gulls and American white pelicans were minor (<2.0% per ESA-listed salmonid population) relative to predation by terns and cormorants. Cumulative impacts were greater for Snake River and upper Columbia River salmonids than for salmonids originating closer to the estuary because upriver salmonids must migrate past more bird colonies to reach the ocean. Predation rates adjusted for colony size (per capita rates) were significantly higher for terns and cormorants nesting at inland colonies (upstream of Bonneville Dam) than for those nesting in the estuary, suggesting that inland colonies have a greater reliance on salmonids as a food source. Management actions to increase salmonid survival by reducing avian predation in the estuary could be offset if birds that disperse from the estuary relocate to inland nesting sites on or near the Columbia River.
  • This is the publisher’s final pdf. The article is copyrighted by the American Fisheries Society and published by Taylor & Francis. It can be found at:
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  • Allen F. Evans, Nathan J. Hostetter, Daniel D. Roby, Ken Collis, Donald E. Lyons, Benjamin P. Sandford, Richard D. Ledgerwood & Scott Sebring (2012): Systemwide Evaluation of Avian Predation on Juvenile Salmonids from the Columbia River Based on Recoveries of Passive Integrated Transponder Tags, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 141:4, 975-989
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  • 141
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  • 4
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  • This project was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Walla Walla District with additional support from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the USACE Portland District, and the Bureau of Reclamation.
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