Landscape Features and Caribou Harvesting During Three Decades in Newfoundland

Jordan McNamara
James Schaefer
Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau
Shane Mahoney
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Landscapes can influence the distribution of harvesting by influencing animal distribution and hunter access. For species like caribou, Rangifer tarandus, decades-long shifts in abundance and distribution might alter such relationships, but few studies have been conducted at such scales. We examined relationships between landscape features and 21,380 harvest records of migratory caribou in Newfoundland during caribou population growth (1980s), cessation of growth (1990s), and decline (2000s). We focused on features hypothesized to influence the distributions of caribou and hunters: lichen landcover, roads, cutblocks, outfitter camps, power lines, and towns. We uncovered larger harvests by resident hunters of male and female caribou among lichen landcover, likely providing preferred caribou forage, and larger harvests by non-resident hunters of male caribou away from towns, reflecting the locations of outfitter camps. Only during later decades, resident harvests occurred nearer power lines and cutblocks, likely providing hunter access and reflecting risk-prone foraging by caribou. We surmise that the harvest was facilitated by open habitats, preferred by caribou, and anthropogenic features leading to hunter access, especially as the caribou population declined. Such knowledge at broad scales is increasingly important in an era of widespread disruption to landscapes.