The effect of fire on spatial separation between wolves and caribou

  • Hugh S. Robinson Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 59812
  • Mark Hebblewhite Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, College of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 59812
  • Nicholas J. DeCesare Wildlife Biology Program, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, College of Forestry, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 59812
  • Jessie Whittington Parks Canada, Banff National Park, Box 900, Banff, AB. T1L 1K6
  • Layla Neufeld Parks Canada, Jasper National Park, Box 10, Jasper, AB. T0E 1E0
  • Mark Bradley Parks Canada, Jasper National Park, Box 10, Jasper, AB. T0E 1E0
  • Marco Musiani Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, AB
Keywords: Canis lupus, fire, Rangifer tarandus caribou, resource selection, spatial separation, wolf, woodland caribou

Abstract

Fire management is an important conservation tool in Canada’s national parks. Fires can benefit some species, while others may be negatively impacted. We used GPS and VHF collar data for 47 wolves from 12 separate packs and 153 caribou from 5 separate herds, and resource selection analysis to model the effects of fire on these species’ habitat and potential interactions. Resource selection modeling showed that wolves select for burned areas and areas close to burns, presumably due to the presence of primary prey (i.e., elk and moose), while caribou avoid burns. Fire reduced the amount of high quality caribou habitat (a direct effect), but also increased the probability of wolf-caribou overlap (an indirect effect). We delineated a spatial index of caribou “safe zones” (areas of low overlap with wolves), and found a positive relationship between the proportion of a herd’s home range represented by “safe zone” in winter and population size (P = 0.10, n=4). While currently-planned prescribed fires in Banff and Jasper reduced the amount of quality caribou habitat by up to 4%, they reduced the area of “safe zones” by up to 7%, varying by herd, location, and season. We suggest that conservation managers should account for the indirect, predator-mediated impacts of fire on caribou in addition to direct effects of habitat loss.
Published
2012-03-08
How to Cite
RobinsonH. S., HebblewhiteM., DeCesareN. J., WhittingtonJ., NeufeldL., BradleyM., & MusianiM. (2012). The effect of fire on spatial separation between wolves and caribou. Rangifer, 32(2), 277-294. https://doi.org/10.7557/2.32.2.2276