University of Alberta

Craig Demars

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Craig Demars – PhD candidate (cdemars@ualberta.ca)

Northeastern BC Boreal Caribou Project

Low rates of calf recruitment (survival to 1 year of age) are a key demographic factor limiting populations of boreal caribou, an ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifertarandus caribou) federally designated as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act.  Predation is the primary cause of calf mortality and increasing predation of caribou has been linked to increasing levels of landscape alteration.  The highest rates of calf predation occur during the spring calving season with cow-calf ratios – a measure of calf recruitment – often falling below levels necessary for population stability (e.g. 28 calves / 100 cows) by the end of the neonate (0-6 weeks of age) time period.  Effective conservation of boreal caribou populations in increasingly altered landscapes requires innovative management strategies to reduce predation risk to caribou during the calving season.  A key objective of this project is to develop new management recommendations for reducing predation risk to caribou calves.  To that end, we will be evaluating the relative importance of spatial factors thought to influence predation risk, specifically: calving habitat selection, larger-scale characteristics of landscape pattern, and predator space use during the critical neonate time period.  During 2011, we successfully deployed radio-collars on 25 female caribou to assess calving habitat selection.  For 2012, we will be deploying radio-collars on black bears and wolves to assess predator space use.  The project represents a collaborative effort among industry, government, academia and non-governmental organizations and we anticipate the project’s outcomes will improve the effectiveness of management strategies aimed at minimizing development impacts within caribou ranges.

Last Modified:2012-05-17