Movements and site fidelity of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in Kattegat, Denmark, with implications for the epidemiology of the phocine distemper virus

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Twenty-seven harbour seals were caught and tagged at the island of Anholt in central Kattegat, Denmark, the epicentre of the phocine distemper virus (PDV) outbreaks in 1988 and 2002 that killed 50-60% of the populations. The satellite tagging shows that harbour seals from Anholt moved widely across Kattegat with a maximum distance of 249 km from the tagging haul-out site. Overall, females travelled over a wider area compared with males [90% kernel home range (KHR) females, 5189 km; males, 3293 km). KHR calculated for yearlings (6414 km) is larger than for subadults (2534 km ), which again is larger than for adult seals (1713 km), showing a strong site fidelity, indicating limited gene flow between haul-out sites. Distances moved and home range sizes increased across autumn, peaked in February-March, and decreased through spring. During the breeding season in spring, all seals were very stationary around Anholt. The onset of the PDV epizootics in 1988 and 2002 took place when the Anholt harbour seals congregate on the Island during April. Anholt seal were also documented to have contact with infected seal locations at Hesselo, Læso, and the Swedish west coast, although this contact takes place during winter prior to the documented summer outbreaks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalI C E S Journal of Marine Science
Pages (from-to)186-195
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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