Alberta Conservation Association

Blairmore, Canada

Alberta Conservation Association

Blairmore, Canada
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Peters W.,University of Montana | Hebblewhite M.,University of Montana | Smith K.G.,Environment Canada | Webb S.M.,Alberta Conservation Association | And 4 more authors.
Wildlife Society Bulletin | Year: 2014

Population assessment is a primary component of ungulate management, but managers are continuously under pressure to reduce survey cost. Another concern in aerial surveys is accounting for undetected animals (i.e., visibility bias). Currently, a stratified random block-survey design (hereafter, block-surveys) is used to develop moose (Alces alces) population estimates in several regions of North America. In this case study, we evaluated the application of distance sampling as an alternative to block-surveys in Alberta, Canada. We conducted distance-sampling surveys in 2010 and 2012 and compared density estimates, precision (coeff. of variation) and flight effort (hr/100-km2 of survey area) to block-surveys flown in 2002, 2007, 2009, and 2012. To assess sightability bias and subsequently correct for moose missed on the transect line, we developed a predictive sightability model using 41 sightability trials with 21 radiocollared moose in 2009 and 2010. Without correcting for visibility bias on the transect line, distance sampling was more efficient in terms of flight-hours than block-surveys, while providing population estimates with similar or higher precision. Estimated sightability on the transect line was 67% in 2010 and 46% in 2012, which was used to re-scale the detection functions. Considering that population estimates from block-surveys as applied in Alberta are based on observable moose, distance sampling with a sightability correction likely provided more accurate estimates. Our results support the application of distance sampling as an alternative to block-surveys, but we suggest further investigation of methods for correcting visibility bias on the transect line. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.

Patterson W.F.,Alberta Conservation Association | Sullivan M.G.,Environment Canada
Human Dimensions of Wildlife | Year: 2013

Stocking catchable-size trout to create sport fisheries is based on a simple conceptual model: stocking more fish creates better fisheries that attract more anglers. Organizations typically stock variable densities of fish (i.e., cost) and expect correlated responses in catch rate and angler effort (i.e., benefit). We tested the assumptions inherent in stocked rainbow trout fisheries in Alberta and found no correlation between these costs and benefits of stocking. Rather, stocking low or high densities of trout created low-density stocks that supported low-catch-rate fisheries, but attracted many anglers if catch rates exceeded 0.08 trout/angler-hr and lakes were close to anglers' homes. We propose a fiscally responsible model of stocking (i.e., stock minimum numbers of fish to remain above an optimal catch rate at lakes selected to attract anglers) that allows managers to either increase stocking sites or reduce stocking costs while maintaining angler effort. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Warnock W.G.,University of Lethbridge | Blackburn J.K.,Alberta Conservation Association | Rasmussen J.B.,University of Lethbridge
Transactions of the American Fisheries Society | Year: 2011

Genetic assignment methods were used to assign 104 adult migrant bull trout Salvelinus confluentus from five recreational fisheries in theOldmanRiver drainage (Alberta, Canada) to a baseline of three coarse-scale genetic stocks that had been previously identified with a model-based Bayesian clustering method. Based on individual assignment and genetic stock identification,most fisheries were largely dominated by the stock with the most proximate spawning tributaries; however, assignment tests suggested variation among source stocks in the proportions of long-range (>90 river kilometers) migrants relative to short-range migrants (i.e., that used nearby river systems draining spawning streams).Migrants originating from a subset of the drainage were then subjected to a finer-scale mixed-stock analysis in which populations at near-tributary scales were used as the baseline. These stock proportions were compared with estimates from direct observations and were found to yield similar values to stock proportions derived from 2 years of trapping in several spawning streams. These genetic assignment methods may be used to infer contributions of large and fine-scale hierarchical populations to mixed-stock recreational fisheries and are especially applicable for use by inland recreational fisheries managers, which have traditionally not taken advantage of spatial genetic analysis tools to the extent used by coastal commercial fisheries managers. © American Fisheries Society 2011.

Webb S.M.,Alberta Conservation Association | Anderson R.B.,Alberta Conservation Association | Manzer D.L.,Alberta Conservation Association | Abercrombie B.,Alberta Trappers Association | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2016

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) in the contiguous United States have been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, most recently based on the value of deep snow for the duration of the wolverine's denning season. We examined evidence for an obligate relationship between wolverines and spring snow cover using camera traps and long-term fur harvests in Alberta. The proportion of traplines that harvested ≥1 wolverine was highest in the northwest Boreal Forest (0.3), where mean wolverine harvest density increased by 75% from the 1990s to 2000s. There was no difference in percent spring snow cover on traplines with a female (n = 81) or no female (n = 416) wolverine harvest in the Boreal Forest. Further, all female wolverines (n = 8) positively identified from camera traps in the Boreal Forest, including 5 lactating females, were located within townships predicted to have no spring snow cover. Long-term harvests and evidence of reproduction in areas with low amounts of spring snow cover in the Boreal Forest of northern Alberta suggest that wolverines may be more flexible in their distribution than previously assumed. © 2016 The Wildlife Society. © The Wildlife Society, 2016

Downey B.A.,Alberta Conservation Association | Blouin F.,Prairie Conservation Forum | Richman J.D.,Alberta Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development | Downey B.L.,Alberta Environmental and Sustainable Resource Development | Jones P.F.,Alberta Conservation Association
Rangelands | Year: 2013

On the Ground Between 2008 and 2010 a cultivated field of 57 ha within the mixed grass prairie of southeastern Alberta was restored with native grasses and silver sagebrush plugs. Wildlife occupying the site increased from being dominated by horned larks to 13 species using the land within 3 years. Two of these species Sprague's pipit and chestnut-collared longspur are native grassland specialists considered "Threatened" under Canada's Species at Risk Act. Litter values on the reseed in year 3 were approaching normal values that would be expected on a loamy site within a healthy mixed grass prairie. © 2013 by the Society for Range Management.

Stevens C.E.,Golder Associates | Counci T.,Alberta Conservation Association | Sullivan M.G.,Alberta Fish and Wildlife
Water Quality Research Journal of Canada | Year: 2010

Economic developments in Alberta have resulted in widespread changes in land use that may deteriorate river conditions for fish. Fish assemblages were characterized with index of biological integrity metrics for the heavily-developed watershed of the Battle River, Alberta. Metric relationships with human stressors were quantified using regression and information theory methods. Although the fauna comprised 14 native species, 50% of the catch was white sucker (Catostomus commersoni Lacepede, 1803). Five statistically unrelated metrics were identified as being responsive to stressors: two trophic guilds, one habitat guild, one reproductive guild, and one measure of community structure. Regression showed that the cumulative effect of human developments, indexed as road density in the basin, was negatively linked to the relative abundance of lithophils and positively linked to the relative abundance of omnivores. Agriculture also threatened the integrity of fish assemblages. Stream sections with higher cattle densities in their basins had fewer lithophils and benthic invertivores; whereas stream sections with higher nutrient concentrations contained fewer species, as well as fewer top carnivores, but more true omnivores. Understanding effects of human footprints that are expanding in western Canada will be critical to the successful management of aquatic resources. © 2010, CAWQ.

Rodtka M.C.,Alberta Conservation Association | Judd C.S.,Alberta Conservation Association | Aku P.K.M.,Alberta Conservation Association | Fitzsimmons K.M.,Alberta Conservation Association
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2015

Occupancy modeling is well suited to quantitative assessment of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) distribution at multiple scales. We used models to estimate occupancy of juvenile bull trout (≤150 mm fork length) in a west-central Alberta watershed. Based on a backpack electrofishing survey of 92 sites, we assessed the relative importance of stream habitat characteristics on detection probability (p) and potential for false absences to bias occupancy estimates. Median distance to first bull trout detection was 16 m (range 0-289 m). Models including ambient water conductivity as a covariate of detection probability were most supported with an 85 μ increase resulting in over a tenfold increase in detection. Conditional detection probability using backpack electrofishing gear approached 95% in the first 200 m of effort in streams with a conductivity around 200 μ The potential for false absences in our study area was relatively low. Modeled site (θ 0.53; SE = 0.13) and patch-scale (ᴪ= 0.47; SE = 0.12) occupancy closely corresponded to naive (i.e., assuming p = 1) estimates (0.47 and 0.43, respectively). Our results highlight the potential efficiencies of an occupancy modeling approach when assessing fish distribution, but careful consideration of model assumptions is necessary. © 2015, National Research Council of Canada. All Rights Reserved.

We tested the general predictions of increased use of nest boxes and positive trends in local populations of Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) following the large-scale provision of nest boxes in a study area of central Alberta over a 16-year period. Nest boxes were rapidly occupied, primarily by Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead, but also by European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). After 5 years of deployment, occupancy of large boxes by Common Goldeneye was 82% to 90% and occupancy of small boxes by Bufflehead was 37% to 58%. Based on a single-stage cluster design, experimental closure of nest boxes resulted in significant reductions in numbers of broods and brood sizes produced by Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead. Occurrence and densities of Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead increased significantly across years following nest box deployment at the local scale, but not at the larger regional scale. Provision of nest boxes may represent a viable strategy for increasing breeding populations of these two waterfowl species on landscapes where large trees and natural cavities are uncommon but wetland density is high. © 2011 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.

Braid A.C.R.,University of Alberta | Manzer D.,Alberta Conservation Association | Nielsen S.E.,University of Alberta
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2016

Productive grizzly bear foraging habitats are lost as the prevalence of natural forest openings declines. We assessed the effectiveness of using wildlife habitat enhancements to increase food supply for grizzly bears in recent forest harvests by conducting planting trials of containerized shrub seedlings for three important late-season grizzly bear foods (fruiting shrubs): Shepherdia canadensis (Canada buffaloberry), Vaccinium membranaceum (mountain huckleberry), and Amelanchier alnifolia (saskatoon). We monitored seedling survival over two growing seasons and considered the effects of soil nutrient amendments, exclosures, initial seedling condition, and environmental factors (elevation and terrain). A. alnifolia had the highest survival rate, although it may not be as effective in the long term due to being preferred ungulate winter browse. Soil nutrient amendments reduced survival rates of all three species, perhaps due to competition with grasses, whereas exclosures increased survival rates. Survival rates across an elevation gradient for S. canadensis and A. alnifolia were inversely related to local occupancy rates, demonstrating that knowledge of their realized niche space is not consistent with early establishment rates of seedlings. As the amount of natural forest openings declines, wildlife habitat enhancements in disturbed sites with open canopies, including forest harvests, have the potential to locally increase late-season food supply for grizzly bears. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.

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