Decision-support model to explore the feasibility of using translocation to restore a woodland caribou population in Pukaskwa National Park, Canada
Keywords:Bayesian belief network, decision-support, endangered species, expert opinion, process model, protected areas, reintroduction, species at risk, structured decision-making, threatened species, woodland caribou
The distribution and abundance of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) have declined dramatically in the past century. Without intervention the most southern population of caribou in eastern North America is expected to disappear within 20 years. Although translocations have reintroduced and reinforced some populations, approximately half of caribou translocation efforts fail. Translocations are resource intensive and risky, and multiple interrelated factors must be considered to assess their potential for success. Structured decision-making tools, such as Bayesian belief networks, provide objective methods to assess different wildlife management scenarios by identifying the key components and relationships in an ecosystem. They can also catalyze dialogue with stakeholders and provide a record of the complex thought processes used in reaching a decision. We developed a Bayesian belief network for a proposed translocation of woodland caribou into a national park on the northeastern coast of Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada. We tested scenarios with favourable (e.g., good physical condition of adult caribou) and unfavourable (e.g., high predator densities) conditions with low, medium, and high numbers of translocated caribou. Under the current conditions at Pukaskwa National Park, augmenting the caribou population is unlikely to recover the species unless wolf densities remain low (<5.5/1000 km2) or if more than 300 animals could be translocated.
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