Evaluating the Impact of Caribou Habitat Restoration on Predator and Prey Movement

Melanie Dickie
Geoff Sherman
Glenn Sutherland
Robert McNay
Michael Cody
Resource Date:

Fragmentation of the boreal forest by linear features, including seismic lines, has destabilized predator–prey dynamics, resulting in the decline of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) populations. Restoration of human-altered habitat has therefore been identified as a critical management tool for achieving self-sustaining woodland caribou populations. However, only recently has testing of the response of caribou and other wildlife to restoration activities been conducted. Early work has centered around assessing changes in wildlife use of restored seismic lines. We evaluated whether restoration reduces the movement rates of predators and their associated prey, which is expected to decrease predator hunting efficiency and ultimately reduce caribou mortality. We developed a new method for using cameras to measure fine-scale movement by measuring speed as animals traveled between cameras in an array. We used our method to quantify speed of caribou, moose (Alces alces), bears (Ursus americanus), and wolves (Canis lupus) on treated (restored) and untreated seismic lines. Restoration treatments reduced travel speeds along seismic lines of wolves by 1.38 km/h, bears by 0.55 km/h, and caribou by 1.57 km/h, but did not reduce moose travel speeds. Reduced predator and caribou speeds on treated seismic lines are predicted to decrease encounter rates between predators and caribou and thus lower caribou kill rates. However, further work is needed to determine whether reduced movement rates result in reduced encounter rates with prey, and ultimately reduced caribou mortality.