Behaviour and Calving Success of Boreal Caribou in Relation to Oil and Gas Development

Doug MacNearney
Karine Pigeon
Laura Finnegan
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Anthropogenic disturbance like oil and gas development is thought to negatively affect boreal caribou through displacement and degradation of habitat, and through creation of favourable conditions for other ungulates and their predators. Reproductive success may also be impacted by disturbance, and while some research has been conducted for barren ground caribou and for other ungulates, there is little knowledge regarding the effects that sensory and physical disturbance from oil and gas development may have on boreal caribou in Alberta.

Overall, our detailed analyses of adult female caribou response and calving success in relation to well site status at different activity phases contributes new knowledge towards understanding the effect of anthropogenic disturbance, and associated sensory disturbance on caribou behavior. Although we did not find any clear linkages between disturbance and calving success per se, the strong patterns of avoidance by caribou of well sites in high activity phases suggests that planning the placement and timing of development of these features while also
considering the spatio-temporal distribution of caribou within their ranges, may help to mitigate the negative effects of these developments on caribou in the future. In addition, calving site selection probability maps that we will provide as supplementary material (when the complete
data set is analyzed) can be used by land planners and industrial partners to direct future development while considering areas preferred by caribou during the vulnerable calving season. In addition, these maps may also be used to direct habitat restoration efforts to areas where they will have the greatest benefit to caribou.