Distribution and relative abundance of caribou in the Hudson Plains Ecozone of Ontario
Keywords:caribou counting, Ontario, aerial surveys, historical review, Hudson Bay, James Bay, Omushkego Cree, photographic surveys, Rangifer tarandus caribou, systematic surveys, summer aggregations, wintering areas
AbstractTo determine past distribution and relative abundance of caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the Hudson Plains Ecozone (HPE) of Ontario, we reviewed past HPE-wide winter systematic aerial surveys, partial winter systematic surveys, summer photographic surveys, incidental observations of caribou, and other sources of information from the period 1950—2003. We conducted new HPE-wide aerial surveys in February 2003 and 2004 to evaluate current distribution patterns. From this information, we defined 9 core wintering areas in the HPE and differentiated between 3 catego¬ries of relative abundance. Wintering areas for the January—March period have changed relatively little over the past 45 years. Summer distribution of caribou along the Hudson Bay coast apparently shifted or expanded from the area west of the Severn River to the central and eastern portions of the coast since the 1980s, and caribou observations have become much more common in the area east of the Winisk River since 1998. Because major resource development activities in the HPE are proposed and some are imminent, we recommend additional caribou surveys to document current caribou population identity, size, and distribution, and research projects to better define caribou wintering areas, calving areas, and movement patterns in the HPE.
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