In 2001, predator exclosures were used to protect nests of the Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) in western Alaska. During the exclosure experiment, nest contents in exclosures had significantly higher daily survival rates than control nests, however, late in the study predators began to cue in on exclosures and predate the nest contents. An Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus) dug under one exclosure and took the newly hatched chicks, and Long-tailed Jaegers (Stercorarius longicaudus) learned to associate exclosures with active nests and repeatedly visited them. The jaegers attempted to gain access to exclosed nests and pursued adult sandpipers as they emerged from the exclosures. The exclosures were removed to reduce potential mortality to adult and young sandpipers, but subsequently, post-exclosure nests had lower daily survival rates than controls during the same time period. Predation of post-exclosure eggs and chicks highlighted the lasting influence of the exclosure treatment on offspring survival because predators probably remembered nest locations. Researchers are urged to use caution when considering use of predator exclosures in areas where jaegers occur.
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Vol. 27 • No. 1