Abundance and site fidelity of bottlenose dolphins in coastal waters near Panama City, Florida

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T. Bouveroux
R. B. Tyson
D. P. Nowacek


Dolphin watching and swim-with programmes are popular tourist attractions in Panama City, Florida, USA. Despite this, little is known about the population of dolphins that utilise this area, specifically St. Andrew Bay. To learn more about this population, photo-identification mark-recapture surveys were conducted between March 2004 and July 2007. The main objectives were to estimate the abundance of bottlenose dolphins inhabiting this region during this time period and to examine their patterns of site fidelity. Robust design population models were used to calculate seasonal abundance estimates, which ranged from 89 (CI 95% = 71–161) to 183 (CI 95% = 169–208) dolphins, even though 263 distinctive dolphins were identified during the study. Only 7% of dolphins (n = 18) observed were seen regularly in the study region. In addition, only 12% of dolphins (n = 30) observed had high site fidelity for the study region, while 58% (n = 153) were considered to be transient to the area. This study provides baseline information regarding dolphin abundance and site fidelity in and around St. Andrew Bay that may be used for the conservation and management of this dolphin population.

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