Female site fidelity of the Mealy Mountain caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Labrador
AbstractThe Mealy Mountain caribou population of southeastern Labrador is listed as threatened. Site fidelity - the philopatric tendency of an animal to remain in or return to the same site - has often been suspected in sedentary caribou like the Mealy Mountain, but rarely has been examined. Philopatric behaviours are important because fidelity sites may then receive priority protection from human disturbance. To describe and document site fidelity for the Mealy Mountain herd, satellite telemetry data from 12 collared adult females during three years was examined. The mean distance between locations in consecutive years of tracking the individual caribou was calculated and an annual profile of site fidelity generated. This profile illustrated that the lowest inter-year distances occurred during calving, when caribou returned to within 39 km (2005-06) and 11.5 km (2006-07) of the previous year's location, and during post-calving, when the mean distance was 7.7 km (2005-06). Spring snow depths were substantially greater in 2007 and appeared to weaken calving site fidelity. This spatial information may serve as a basis for detecting anthropogenic effects on woodland caribou.
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