Status of the Steamers Head (NSW) Australian and New Zealand fur seal haul-out site and influence of environmental factors and stochastic disturbance on seal behaviour
Alex Burleigh, Tim Lynch, Tracey Rogers, 2008. "Status of the Steamers Head (NSW) Australian and New Zealand fur seal haul-out site and influence of environmental factors and stochastic disturbance on seal behaviour", Too close for comfort: Contentious issues in human-wildlife encounters, Daniel Lunney, Adam Munn, Will Meikle
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The most northern Australian haul-out site for the fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus is at Steamers Head, New South Wales (NSW). This study represents the first quantitative status report on the composition and abundance of seals at the Steamers Head haul-out and can be used as a baseline for future long term monitoring. Seasonal trends, environmental effects and disturbances on haul-out numbers were investigated for seals at this site. The haul-out site was occupied by both Australian A. pusillus doriferus, and New Zealand A. forsteri, fur seals, with A. pusillus doriferus the far more abundant species. For both species, adult males, sub-adults and juveniles were present, but sub-adults represented the most numerous age group. Observed numbers of hauled-out seals increased from occasional individuals during May, peaked at 135 in September, and declined during October. The seasonal occupation of the site suggests that those animals present are non-breeding. Daily haul-out numbers varied considerably. Two large declines in numbers coincided with stochastic disturbance from a landslide at the site and unusually intense naval bombardment at a nearby weapons range. No diurnal or tidal effects on haul-out behaviour were observed, though more A. pusillus doriferus hauled-out in strong winds and warm air temperatures. At the site, which is sheltered, shaded, steep and has a southerly aspect, environmental effects have different influences on the fur seals' haul-out behaviour compared to more exposed sites. Thus generalisations regarding haul-out behaviour of seal species in response to environmental conditions need to be viewed with caution.