Peary caribou distribution within the Bathurst Island Complex relative to the boundary proposed for Qausuittuq National Park, Nunavut
Keywords:boundaries, distribution, Peary caribou, protected area, Rangifer tarandus pearyi
How caribou (Rangifer tarandus), including Peary caribou (R. t. pearyi), use their annual ranges varies with changes in abundance. While fidelity to some seasonal ranges is persistent, use of other areas changes. Consequently, understanding changes in seasonal distribution is useful for designing boundaries of protected areas for caribou conservation. A case in point is the proposed Qausuittuq (Northern Bathurst Island) National Park for Bathurst Island and its satellite islands in the High Arctic of Canada. Since 1961, Peary caribou have been through three periods of high and low abundance. We examined caribou distribution and composition mapped during nine systematic aerial surveys (1961–2013), unsystematic helicopter surveys (1989–98), and limited radio-collaring from 1994–97 and 2003–06. While migration patterns changed and use of southern Bathurst Island decreased during lows in abundance, use of satellite islands, especially Cameron Island for winter range, persisted during both highs and lows in abundance. The northeast coast of Bathurst Island was used to a greater extent during the rut and during summer at low abundance. We suggest that Park boundaries which include Cameron Island and the northeast coast of Bathurst Island will be more effective in contributing to the persistence of Peary caribou on the Bathurst Island Complex.
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