Recent estimates of the total size of the British grey seal population have been based on fitting age-structured models to estimates of pup production. The estimates were sensitive to whether density-dependence was considered to act on fecundity or pup survival. This study provides an alternative estimate for abundance in 2008: 91 800 animals (95% confidence interval, CI, 78 400-109 900). The estimate is consistent with the results of existing models where population density influences pup survival. It suggests that reductions in fecundity are unlikely to have been the cause of the recent slowing of the rate of growth of the population. The estimate presented is based on aerial surveys of the entire Scottish coast and the east coast of England. The surveys were carried out in August of 2007-2009 and restricted to the 2 h each side of daylight low water. Data from 107 electronic tags deployed between 1995 and 2008 were used to estimate the proportion of animals hauled out during the surveys. Overall, the animals hauled out for 31% (95% CI 15-50%) of the survey windows. No significant effects on the proportion of animals hauled out were detected from year, location, age, sex, temperature, rainfall, or the timing of low tide.
- population estimate