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Salt Spring Island, Canada

Festa-Bianchet M.,Universite de Sherbrooke | Ray J.C.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Boutin S.,University of Alberta | Cote S.D.,Laval University | Gunn A.,368 Roland Road
Canadian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2011

Caribou (Rangifer tarandus (L., 1758)) play a central role in the ecology and culture of much of Canada, where they were once the most abundant cervid. Most populations are currently declining, and some face extirpation. In southern Canada, caribou range has retreated considerably over the past century. The ultimate reason for their decline is habitat alterations by industrial activities. The proximate causes are predation and, to a lesser extent, overharvest. The most southerly populations of "Mountain" caribou are at imminent risk of extirpation. Mountain caribou are threatened by similar industrial activities as Boreal caribou, and face increasing harassment from motorized winter recreational activities. Most populations of "Migratory Tundra" caribou are currently declining. Although these caribou fluctuate in abundance over decades, changing harvest technologies, climate change, increasing industrial development and human presence in the North raise doubts over whether recent declines will be followed by recoveries. The Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi J.A. Allen, 1902), a distinct subspecies endemic to Canada's High Arctic, has suffered drastic declines caused by severe weather, hunting and predation. It faces an increasing threat from climate change. While some questions remain about the reasons for the decline of Migratory Tundra caribou, research has clearly identified several threats to the persistence of "Boreal", Mountain, and Peary caribou. Scientific knowledge, however, has neither effectively influenced policies nor galvanized public opinion sufficiently to push governments into effective actions. The persistence of many caribou populations appears incompatible with the ongoing pace of industrial development.

Boulanger J.,Integrated Ecological Research | Poole K.G.,Aurora Wildlife Research | Gunn A.,368 Roland Road | Wierzchowski J.,Consulting Inc.
Wildlife Biology | Year: 2012

Wildlife species may respond to industrial development with changes in distribution. However, discerning a response to development from differences in habitat selection is challenging. Since the early 1990s, migratory tundra Bathurst caribou Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus in the Canadian Arctic have been exposed to the construction and operation of two adjacent open-pit mines within the herd's summer range. We developed a statistical approach to directly estimate the zone of influence (area of reduced caribou occupancy) of the mines during mid-July-mid-October. We used caribou presence recorded during aerial surveys and locations of satellite-collared cow caribou as inputs to a model to account for patterns in habitat selection as well as mine activities. We then constrained the zone of influence curve to asymptote, such that the average distance from the mine complex where caribou habitat selection was not affected by the mine could be estimated. During the operation period for the two open-pit mines, we detected a 14-km zone of influence from the aerial survey data, and a weaker 11-km zone from the satellite-collar locations. Caribou were about four times more likely to select habitat at distances greater than the zone of influence compared to the two-mine complex, with a gradation of increasing selection up to the estimated zone of influence. Caribou are responding to industrial developments at greater distances than shown in other areas, possibly related to fine dust deposition from mine activities in open, tundra habitats. The methodology we developed provides a standardized approach to estimate the spatial impact of stressors on caribou or other wildlife species. © 2012 Wildlife Biology, NKV.

Adamczewski J.,Natural Resources Canada | Gunn A.,368 Roland Road | Poole K.G.,Aurora Wildlife Research | Hall A.,Arctic Inc | And 2 more authors.
Arctic | Year: 2015

The Beverly herd was one of the first large migratory herds of barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) defined in northern Canada on the basis of annual return of breeding females to traditional calving grounds near Beverly Lake in Nunavut. In 1994, herd size was estimated at 276 000 ± 106 600 (SE) adult caribou, but monitoring was minimal from 1994 to 2007. The next calving ground survey in 2002 revealed that caribou densities had dropped by more than half since 1994; annual surveys following from 2007 to 2009 demonstrated an extreme decline in numbers of calving cows, and by 2011, no newborn calves were seen there. We examine two possible explanations for the declining use of the traditional Beverly calving grounds from 1994 until their abandonment by 2011. One explanation is that a true numerical decline in herd size occurred, driven in at least the later stages by low cow survival and poor calf productivity, which led the remaining Beverly cows to switch to the neighbouring Ahiak calving ground 250 km to the north in 2007-09 and join that herd. An alternative explanation is that the decline on the traditional Beverly calving grounds was largely due to a distributional shift to the north of the Beverly herd that may have begun in the mid-1990s. We suggest that the former explanation is the more likely and that the Beverly herd no longer exists as a distinct herd. We acknowledge that gaps in monitoring of Beverly and Ahiak caribou hamper definitive evaluation of the Beverly herd’s fate. The large size sometimes achieved by barren-ground caribou herds is not a guarantee of persistence; monitoring shortfalls may hamper management actions to address declines. © The Arctic Institute of North America.

Witter L.A.,University of Northern British Columbia | Johnson C.J.,University of Northern British Columbia | Croft B.,Natural Resources Canada | Gunn A.,368 Roland Road | Gillingham M.P.,University of Northern British Columbia
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2012

1.Macroparasites may be a major factor shaping animal behaviour. Tundra ecosystems inhabited by caribou and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are known for large concentrations of ectoparasites including mosquitoes (Culicidae) and black flies (Simuliidae), as well as endoparasitic oestrid flies (Oestridae). 2.Increased intensity and duration of insect harassment because of climatic warming is hypothesized as a potential factor in recent declines of Rangifer across the circumpolar north. Although there is a well-observed relationship between insect harassment and caribou/reindeer behaviour, the influence of ecto- relative to endoparasitic species is unclear. Climatic changes may favour the activity patterns, distribution or abundance of certain insect species; thus, understanding differential effects on the behaviour of Rangifer is important. 3.We recorded caribou behaviour using group scan and focal sampling methods, while simultaneously trapping insects and recording weather conditions on the postcalving/summer range of the Bathurst barren-ground caribou herd in Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Canada, during 2007-2009. 4.We developed statistical model sets representing hypotheses about the effects of insects, weather, habitat/location, and date/time on caribou behaviour. We used multinomial logistic regression models to explore factors affecting the relative dominance of behaviour types within groups of caribou and fractional multinomial logistic regression models to determine factors influencing time allocation by individual caribou. We examined changes in feeding intensity using fractional logistic regression. 5.Relative dominance of insect avoidance behaviour within caribou groups and time allocation to insect avoidance by individual caribou increased when oestrid flies were present or black flies were active at moderate-high levels. Mosquito activity had relatively little effect on caribou behaviour. Time spent feeding was reduced by the greatest degree when all three insect types were present in combination. Feeding intensity was influenced to a greater extent by the accumulation of growing degree days over the course of the postcalving/summer season than by insect activity. Changes in Arctic systems that increase the activity/abundance of ecto- and endoparasites could have implications for the productivity of Rangifer populations. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society.

Boulanger J.,Integrated Ecological Research | Gunn A.,368 Roland Road | Adamczewski J.,Natural Resources Canada | Croft B.,Natural Resources Canada
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2011

The Bathurst herd of barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) in the Canadian central arctic declined from an estimated 203,800 to 16,400 breeding females from 1986 to 2009, with the most rapid decline from 2006 to 2009. A key research and management question was whether the decline was mainly due to decreases in productivity alone or also due to reduced adult female survival. Investigating causes of the decline was hampered by a lack of direct estimates of caribou demographic parameters. We developed a demographic model that could be objectively fitted to field data to explore the mechanisms for the Bathurst decline, with a focus on the recent accelerated decline from 2006 to 2009. Our modeling indicated that the decline was driven by increasing negative trends in adult female and calf survival rates and possibly reduced fecundity The effect of a constant hunter harvest on the declining herd was one potential cause for the recent accelerated decline in adult survival. The demographic model detected negative trends in adult female survival that were not detected using standalone analyses of collar-based survival data. The model allowed rigorous interpretation of trends in productivity by controlling for the simultaneous influence of trends in adult, calf, and yearling survival and adult fecundity on field-based calf-cow ratios. Stochastic simulations suggested that large increases in adult survival and productivity would be needed for the herd to recover. Our methods enable objective modeling of caribou demography that can assist in caribou management based upon all sources of available data. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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