Video - White-Tailed Deer In Boreal Alberta: The Effects Of Winter Severity

Jason Fisher
Resource Date:

Jason Fisher is the Senior Research Scientist in Wildlife Ecology for Alberta Innovates and his presentation is about White-tailed deer in boreal Alberta. 
White-tailed deer are expanding their distribution in boreal Alberta, which is causing problems to the caribou population, since the increase in deer throughout this area, brings out the wolves as well. Caribou protection could mean wolf and deer management.
Fisher created a study to determine what is causing the deer to expand. It was determined there were two main reasons: human activities and climate change. Specific human activities included agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas -- anything that replaces old forest with new forest. Climate change allows for a longer growing season and lower winter mortality. 
To determine the extent that each factor is impacting the deer population sixty body heat activated cameras were installed in wildlife terrain in a random design. The camera surveys have run since October 2011 and will run for a total of three years. Monthly surveys are also taken to determine the frequency of sightings by month and season. 
Occupancy models were taken to determine the probability of deer detection, probability of deer occupancy, probability of colonizing an empty site, probability that an occupied site goes extinct, and spatial "growth rate". To date, the cameras have generated a quarter of a million images, of which about seventy five percent are white-tailed deer. 
The conclusions generated from this study are as follows: severe winters reduce seasonal white-tailed deer occupancy, but site colonization after a decrease is very fast; the distribution of the deer continued to expand through the study period, and both human footprint and elevated deciduous forest cover best explain deer occurrence in the northeast boreal forest. 
This video was a part of the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada Resource Access and Ecological Issues Forum from November 2013.