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Polfus J.L.,University of Montana | Heinemeyer K.,Round River Conservation Studies | Hebblewhite M.,University of Montana
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2014

Negotiating the complexities of wildlife management increasingly requires new approaches, especially where data may be limited. A robust combination of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and western science has the potential to improve management decisions and enhance the validity of ecological inferences. We examined the strengths and weaknesses of predicting woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) habitat selection with resource selection functions (RSF) based on western science and TEK-based models within the territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation of northern British Columbia. We developed seasonal RSF models with data from 10 global positioning system collared caribou. We generated TEK-based habitat suitability index models from interviews with Taku River Tlingit members. We tested the ability of both habitat models to spatially predict the occurrence of collared caribou locations. To portray differences between the models, we statistically and visually compared the spatial predictions of TEK and RSF modeling approaches using Kappa statistics and k-fold cross validation. Kappa statistics of habitat ranks from the models showed substantial agreement during summer (K = 0.649) and fair agreement during winter (K = 0.337). We found that both TEK and RSF models predicted independent caribou locations (Spearman's rank correlations from k-fold cross-validation ranged from 0.612 to 0.997). Differences in model performance were a result of RSF models predicting more relatively high quality habitat than TEK models. Given the widespread declines of woodland caribou across the boreal forest of Canada, and the requirement of the Canadian Species at Risk Act to incorporate both traditional and western science approaches into recovery planning, our results demonstrate that TEK-based habitat models can effectively inform recovery planning for this imperiled species. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.

McKelvey K.S.,Rocky Research | Aubry K.B.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Anderson N.J.,Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks | Clevenger A.P.,Montana State University | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2014

Wolverines were greatly reduced in number and possibly extirpated from the contiguous United States (U.S.) by the early 1900s. Wolverines currently occupy much of their historical range in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, but are absent from Utah and only single individuals are known to occur in California and Colorado. In response, the translocation of wolverines to California and Colorado is being considered. If wolverines are to be reintroduced, managers must identify appropriate source populations based on the genetic affinities of historical and modern wolverine populations. We amplified the mitochondrial control region of 13 museum specimens dating from the late 1800s to early 1900s and 209 wolverines from modern populations in the contiguous U.S. and Canada and combined results with previously published haplotypes. Collectively, these data indicated that historical wolverine populations in the contiguous U.S. were extirpated by the early 20th century, and that modern populations in the contiguous U.S. are likely the descendants of recent immigrants from the north. The Cali1 haplotype previously identified in California museum specimens was also common in historical samples from the southern Rocky Mountains, and likely evolved in isolation in the southern ice-free refugium that encompassed most of the contiguous U.S. during the last glaciation. However, when southern populations were extirpated, these matrilines were eliminated. Several of the other haplotypes found in historical specimens from the contiguous U.S. also occur in modern North American populations, and belong to a group of haplotypes that are associated with the rapid expansion of northern wolverine populations after the last glacial retreat. Modern wolverines in the contiguous U.S. are primarily haplotype A, which is the most common and widespread haplotype in Canada and Alaska. For the translocation of wolverines to California, Colorado, and other areas in the western U.S., potential source populations in the Canadian Rocky Mountains may provide the best mix of genetic diversity and appropriate learned behavior. © 2014 The Wildlife Society.

Polfus J.L.,University of Montana | Hebblewhite M.,University of Montana | Heinemeyer K.,Round River Conservation Studies
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

Understanding the impact of indirect habitat loss resulting from avoidance of human infrastructure is an important conservation priority. We evaluated resource selection for 10 global positioning system collared northern mountain woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in British Columbia, Canada, with seasonal resource selection functions (RSF) developed at the second-order (landscape) and third-order (within home range) scales. To estimate how much habitat was lost due to avoidance, we estimated the zone of influence (ZOI) around multiple developments and modeled realized and potential habitat. Potential habitat was approximated by removing the ZOI from RSF models. By calculating the spatial difference between potential and realized habitat we estimated the amount of indirect habitat loss. Caribou displayed hierarchical avoidance of development, with the greatest avoidance occurring at the second-order. During both seasons caribou avoided high-use roads by 2. km and low-use roads by 1. km. In winter, caribou avoided town by 9. km compared to 3. km in summer. However, in summer caribou avoided mines by 2. km and cabins and camps by 1.5. km, while in winter when human activity was low, avoidance of these features was minor. As a result of avoidance of the cumulative ZOI, approximately 8% and 2% of high quality habitat was lost in the study area in winter and summer, respectively. Our study provides an approach to identify the extent and quality of habitat influenced by indirect avoidance. Conservation efforts should prioritize protecting areas of high quality habitat degraded by avoidance in the vicinity of human development. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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