Effects of tourists on behavior and demography of olympic marmots

Suzanne C. Griffin, Tanguy Valois, Mark L. Taper, L. Scott Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

If changes in animal behavior resulting from direct human disturbance negatively affect the persistence of a given species or population, then these behavioral changes must necessarily lead to reduced demographic performance. We tested for the effects of human disturbance on Olympic marmots (Marmota olympus), a large ground-dwelling squirrel that has disappeared from several areas where recreation levels are high. We assessed the degree to which antipredator and foraging behavior and demographic rates (survival and reproduction) differed between sites with high recreation levels (high use) and those with little or no recreation (low use). Compared with the marmots at low-use sites, marmots at high-use sites displayed significantly reduced responses to human approach, which could be construed as successful accommodation of disturbance or as a decrease in predator awareness. The marmots at high-use sites also looked up more often while foraging, which suggests an increased wariness. Marmots at both types of sites had comparable reproductive and survival rates and were in similar body condition. Until now, the supposition that marmots can adjust their behavior to avoid negative demographic consequences when confronted with heavy tourism has been based on potentially ambiguous behavioral data. Our results support this hypothesis in the case of Olympic marmots and demonstrate the importance of considering demographic data when evaluating the impacts of recreation on animal populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1070-1081
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Volume21
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2007

Keywords

  • Habituation
  • Human disturbance
  • Marmota olympus
  • National parks
  • Olympic marmot
  • Tourism effects

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