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Use of space by caribou in northern Canada Open Access


Other title
seismic lines
hierarchcial cluster
home range
fuzzy cluster
population structure
critical habitat
movement rates
activity periods
Dolphin and Union
habitat condition
secure habitat
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Nagy, John Andrew Stephen
Supervisor and department
Derocher, Andrew (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Case, Ray (Government of Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories)
Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)
Schmiegelow, Fiona (Renewable Resources)
Schaefer, James (Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario)
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Understanding how populations are structured and how they use natural and anthropogenic spaces is essential for effective wildlife management. A total of 510 barren-ground (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus), 176 boreal (R. t. caribou), 11 mountain woodland (R. t. caribou), and 39 island (R. t. groenlandicus x pearyi) caribou were tracked with satellite collars in 1993-2009 in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern Alberta. Using satellite location data and hierarchical and fuzzy cluster analyses, I verified that Cape Bathurst, Bluenose-West, Bluenose-East, Bathurst, Beverly, Qamanirjuaq, and Lorillard barren-ground subpopulations were robust; the Queen Maude Gulf and Wager Bay barren-ground subpopulations were distinct. Dolphin and Union island caribou formed one population; boreal caribou formed two distinct subpopulations. Females in robust subpopulations were structured by strong annual spatial affiliation; those in distinct subpopulations were spatially independent and structured by migratory connectivity, movement barriers, and/or habitat discontinuity. An east-west cline in annual-range sizes and path lengths supported the subpopulation structure identified for migratory barren-ground caribou. I analyzed satellite location data to determine parturition dates and activity periods for all caribou ecotypes. For parturition dates I found a north-south cline for boreal caribou, west-east cline for migratory barren-ground caribou, and ecotype and subspecies clines for boreal and barren-ground caribou. Based on annual changes in movement rates I identified eight activity periods for boreal and tundra-wintering, 10 for mountain woodland, and 12 for migratory barren-ground caribou. Based distribution and movements, boreal caribou avoided seismic lines during periods when females and calves were most vulnerable to predators or hunters. They crossed fewer seismic lines and travelled faster when they crossed them than expected. Caribou avoided areas ≤400 m from seismic lines where they could space away from them suggesting that they perceive these as risky areas. I defined secure habitats as areas that were >400 m from anthropogenic linear features. Population growth rates were higher in areas where they had access to secure unburned habitat and where most of that was in patches >500 km2. Critical habitat for boreal caribou is a habitat state that provides “security” from predation risk and facilitates the effectiveness of their anti-predator strategies.
License granted by John Nagy ( on 2011-06-14T17:23:36Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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