Wildlife habitat requirements summaries for selected wildlife species in Alberta

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  • This manual attempts to summarize and highlight information to assist in defining species habitat relationships relevant to Alberta environments and for a number of Alberta wildlife species. The degree of specificity of the summaries, in part or whole, varies according to the background information available. Information must often be extrapolated from studies outside Alberta, or from specific regions in Alberta; this should be taken into consideration when applying this information. The summaries have been reviewed by species experts and their comments have been incorporated. Habitat distribution maps follow the summaries; a comparative Wildlife Habitat Region map for Alberta is provided. It is hoped this manual will serve as an information base, and as a reference guide for habitat mapping and evaluation activities. The summaries are being used as an integral part in the development of habitat interpretation models which attempt to establish quantifiable value relationships between landscape features and species life requisites. These models will allow the classification of habitat suitability for a particular region on a species basis. The background information provided in the summaries supports the relative values assigned within the models for a particular habitat region. Wildlife requires a number of life support requisites for survival and reproduction. Habitat features that will supply food, cover, and space will determine a species' presence or absence from an area, as well as influencing the relative abundance of a species. Food (vegetative or animal matter, water, and trace minerals) should provide all the nutritional requirements necessary for growth and development, maintenance and reproduction. Cover may be required for thermal, reproductive, escape, resting and roosting purposes. A number of landscape components, such as vegetation, land forms, topography, and aquatic forms, may serve these functions. Space is the area or range an animal requires to satisfy these basic requirements during its lifetime. The habitat requirements of a species vary seasonally, and with sex, age, and reproductive status. As well, many habitat components (vegetation, snow cover) undergo dramatic seasonal changes or gradual successional changes that will temporally influence the suitability of a region. Disturbance phenomena, natural as wildfires or human-induced as timber harvest, may also have a significant effect on habitat suitability. Effects may be species-specific or species-general, and harmful or beneficial to varying degrees. Species characteristics will determine the components of the habitat essential to its existence. Species plasticity influences the range of habitat conditions that a species can adapt to. Sage grouse, for example, are dependent on expanses of sagebrush and cannot exist elsewhere. Elk, in contrast, are a generalistic species able to utilize a wide variety of habitats under varying conditions. Before accurate evaluations of wildlife habitat of such species can be made, an adequate information base of their habitat needs, and the factors influencing these needs, is required.

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