Use of space by caribou in northern Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Nagy, John Andrew Stephen
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
    • Schaefer, James (Biology Department, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario)
    • Case, Ray (Government of Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories)
    • Schmiegelow, Fiona (Renewable Resources)
    • Merrill, Evelyn (Biological Sciences)