Movement pathways and habitat selection by woodland caribou during spring migration
AbstractWoodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are a threatened species throughout Canada. Special management is therefore required to ensure habitat needs are met, particularly because much of their current distribution is heavily influenced by resource extraction activities. Although winter habitat is thought to be limiting and is the primary focus of conservation efforts, maintaining connectivity between summer and winter ranges has received little attention. We used global positioning system data from an interprovincial, woodland caribou herd to define migratory movements on a relatively pristine range. Non-linear models indicated that caribou movement during migration was punctuated; caribou traveled for some distance (movement phase) followed by a pause (resting/foraging phase). We then developed resource selection functions (RSFs), using case-controlled logistic regression, to describe resting/foraging sites and movement sites, at the landscape scale. The RSFs indicated that caribou traveled through areas that were less rugged and closer to water than random and that resting/foraging sites were associated with older forests that have a greater component of pine, and are further from water than were random available locations. This approach to analyzing animal location data allowed us to identify two patterns of habitat selection (travel and foraging/resting) for caribou during the migratory period. Resultant models are important tools for land use planning to ensure that connectivity between caribou summer and winter ranges is maintained.
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