Whose Line Is It Anyway? Moose (Alces alces) Response to Linear Features

Laura Finnegan
Mark Hebblewhite
Karine E. Pigeon
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Linear features are pervasive across the boreal forest of Canada, negatively impacting several wildlife species. Understanding how wildlife responds to different types and characteristics of linear features is necessary for coordinated landscape restoration. Currently, linear feature restoration is focused on recovering threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus) which may have unintended impacts on other boreal species like moose (Alces alces). Understanding how moose respond to different linear features can help ensure restoration is targeted and effective. We used GPS data from seven moose collected between 2008 and 2010 to investigate response to linear features and to determine how moose response was influenced by characteristics of linear features like the surrounding habitat and regeneration. At the landscape scale, moose selected areas closer to seismic lines when they were in areas with lower densities of seismic lines and higher densities of harvest blocks and wildfires. This response was stronger during winter. Moose selected areas closer to pipelines when they were in areas with lower densities of other linear features, harvest blocks, and wildfires and were indifferent to roads at the population-level. At the fine scale, during winter, moose selected areas closer to seismic lines regardless of vegetation height or the surrounding habitat, but were indifferent to seismic lines during summer, and were indifferent to roads and pipelines during summer and winter. Combined, our results suggest that there are characteristics of seismic lines which make them attractive to moose regardless of the regeneration height on the seismic lines, providing further evidence that effective linear feature restoration will need to address the fact that linear features increase landscape permeability and provide forage for multiple boreal wildlife species. Our results also further illustrate the importance of considering how linear feature restoration efforts focused on caribou may shift the distribution of other boreal wildlife species. Ultimately, conservation efforts for threatened species should recognize that conservation efforts focused on one species may have unintended consequences for interacting species.