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Fluctuations in lemming populations in north Yukon, Canada, 2007–2010

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We estimated population density of brown lemmings (Lemmus sibiricus (Kerr, 1792)), Greenland collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus (Traill, 1823)), and tundra voles (Microtus oeconomus (Pallas, 1776)) on Herschel Island from 2007 to 2010 by mark–recapture on three live-trapping areas. Limited data were also available from Komakuk Beach on the north Yukon coast. In contrast to most previous studies, brown and collared lemmings were partly out of phase. Brown lemmings on Herschel reached peak density in 2007–2008 and were low in 2009–2010, while collared lemmings were at peak density in 2007–2008 and again in 2010. Large adult male body size was characteristic of peak populations. Brown lemmings increased dramatically in the peak summer of 2008 and collared lemmings increased rapidly when winter breeding under the snow was successful in 2009–2010. By contrast, at Komakuk Beach, we could see no clear signs of fluctuations in these three species. Winter snow conditions may be too severe for population persistence on the coastal plain along the north coast of the Yukon. Further work is needed to unravel why peak lemming densities are so variable among sites and why lemming fluctuations are so pronounced on the arctic coastal plain of Alaska and virtually absent on the coastal plain of the north Yukon.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, 39 Harbottle Road, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 5T2, Canada. 3: Renewable Resources Management Program, Yukon College, Whitehorse, YT Y1A 5K4, Canada.

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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