Project Information

Title: Pigeon Guillemot Restoration Research in Prince William Sound 17100853

Project Year and Number: 2017: 17100853

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: 2021: 21110853, 2020: 20110853, 2019: 19110853, 2018: 18100853, 2016: 16100853, 2015: 15100853, 2014: 11100853-Am.8.29.13, 2011: 11100853

Principal Investigator (PI): David Irons (USFWS), Robb Kaler (USFWS), Dan Roby (Oregon State University)

Managing Agency: USFWS

Assisting Personnel: None

Research Location: Prince William Sound

Restoration Category: General Restoration, Monitoring, Research

Injured Resources Addressed: Pigeon Guillemot


This proposal is for years 4 and 5 (2017-2018) of an ongoing 5-year project to protect and restore the pigeon guillemot population impacted by the oil spill in PWS. In the first three years of this project (2014-2016), mink were trapped to reduce predation on the pigeon guillemot nests in the Naked Island group, and has already shown some success, with an increasing number of guillemots. This proposal continues the trapping of mink around the pigeon guillemot nests, census counts of the pigeon guillemot population, and monitoring the productivity. As there has been no snow the last two years, which would allow us to easily determine if mink were still entering the pigeon guillemot nesting areas, we must continue to trap and set up trail cameras to try to determine to the best of our ability that no mink are entering the guillemot nesting areas. This project provides an opportunity to restore the population of Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba) in Prince William Sound, Alaska, which has fallen by more than 90% at the Naked Island Group since 1989. A restoration plan for Pigeon Guillemots in PWS was prepared to address the species’ lack of population recovery following injury by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Predation on nests and adults by mink is now the primary limiting factor for guillemot reproductive success and population recovery at the most important historical nesting site for guillemots in PWS (i.e., the Naked Island group). Mink on the Naked Island group are descended in part from fur farm stock and arrived on the island group during the 1980s. The goal of the project is to remove all mink from the Pigeon Guillemot nesting areas and allow for recovery to occur. We trapped for the first time in the winter and spring of 2014. Seventy-six mink were killed. During the 2015 trapping season 23 mink were killed in localized areas. During the last three weeks only three females were trapped, none were pregnant although it was breeding season. That is an indication that there are so few mink left in the nesting areas that was difficult to find a mate. Despite increased trapping efforts in 2015, overall mink take declined from 76 mink in 2014 to 23 mink in 2015. Of the 23 mink removed during 2015 trapping efforts, 12 were male (52%) and 11 were female (48%). In summer 2015, we counted over 90 pigeon guillemots, up from 74 last year; control islands did not have a similar increase. We did not expect to see this large of increase in birds this year. The warm water in the Gulf of Alaska may have contributed as other species were moving from the Gulf to PWS. We surveyed active nests and found about 30 confirmed nests and about 20 suspected nests; last year we found 11. Colonies are starting to form again with up to 6 nests in one area. Productivity during the chick stage was high, around 80%, indicating that the adults could find enough food for their chicks.

Proposal: View (351 KB)

Annual Report FY17: View (441 KB)
Final Report: Final Report Not available. For current status, please contact us.

Publications from this Project: None Available