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Avoidance of Industrial Development by Woodland Caribou

Simon J. Dyer, Jack P. O'Neill, Shawn M. Wasel and Stan Boutin
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jul., 2001), pp. 531-542
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3803106
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3803106
Page Count: 12
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Avoidance of Industrial Development by Woodland Caribou
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Abstract

Rapid encroachment on woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) habitat by resource extraction industries (oil, gas, forestry, and peat) is occurring throughout northern Alberta, Canada. The effect of this human development on the movement and distribution of threatened woodland caribou remains poorly understood. We captured and fitted 36 woodland caribou with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. These yielded 43,415 locations during the 12-month study period. We tested the hypothesis that woodland caribou use areas adjacent to wellsites, roads, and seismic lines as often as they use areas away from these developments. We analyzed caribou locations, controlling for vegetation cover classes to remove confounding effects of habitat, and grouped to examine seasonal variation in distribution. Caribou avoided human developments; the level of avoidance appeared to be related to the level of human activity in the study area. We recorded maximum avoidance distances of 1,000 m (wells) and 250 m (roads and seismic lines). By extrapolating avoidance distances to the entire study area, we calculated that 22-48% of our study area would receive reduced use by caribou. Avoidance effects were highest during late winter and calving and lowest during summer, possibly as a result of lower traffic levels then. We propose management strategies to balance caribou conservation with resource extraction in northern Alberta.

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