Decreasing abundance of resident, nonmigratory trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), USA, raised concern that this population, which helped facilitate the restoration of the species across North America, may disappear. We quantified trends in abundance of resident and migratory trumpeter swans in YNP from 1967 to 2007 and investigated the potential mechanisms for declining population trends, including cessation of the supplemental feeding program and relocation programs outside of YNP, density dependence, and annual variations in environmental conditions. Estimated abundance of resident trumpeter swans in YNP ranged from 59 individuals in 1968 to 10 individuals in 2007. Using log-linear modeling, the best approximating model chosen from an a priori set of competing models estimated the annual growth rate (r) of resident swans from 1967 to 2007 was −0.036 (95% CI = −0.042 to −0.030, Akaike wt [wi] = 0.44). A competing model provided evidence that decreases in abundance became more dramatic after supplemental feeding of grain outside of YNP was terminated in winter 1992–1993 (r̂1967–1992 = −0.027, 95% CI = −0.039 to −0.015; r̂1993–2007 = −0.053, 95% CI = −0.029 to −0.080; wi = 0.42). There was little evidence of density-dependent effects on the resident population growth rates (betâYNPpop = 0.006, 95% CI = −0.017 to 0.007), but rates were lower following severe winters, wetter springs, and warmer summers. Our results indicate that the YNP population of trumpeter swans is decreasing and may act as a sink to surrounding populations. Thus, population levels of YNP trumpeter swans may depend on management outside the Park and we recommend the National Park Service collaborate with surrounding agencies in managing trumpeter swans throughout the Tri-state region where more productive habitats may exist.
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Vol. 73 • No. 5