Boreal caribou are listed as Threatened and anthropogenic disturbance is linked to population declines across their geographic range. The most-cited mechanism by which disturbance threatens boreal caribou is through the exacerbation of apparent competition via increases in early successional forage, and subsequent increases in other prey species and gray wolves. In western Canada, fossil fuel extraction is the primary cause of land-use change. We examined caribou and wolf behavioural responses to anthropogenic disturbance and used multiple data sources and analyses to test competing mechanisms by which disturbance increases predation risk for caribou in northeast BC. We determined that caribou tended to avoid anthropogenic disturbance, while wolves generally selected for anthropogenic landscape features, such as roads and seismic lines. We did not find a relationship between anthropogenic disturbance and increases in other prey species, but roads and seismic lines did increase caribou-wolf spatial overlap, which corresponded to higher predation risk for caribou. Contrary to other boreal caribou populations, our analyses suggest that the better-supported mechanism by which disturbance threatens boreal caribou in northeast BC is the increase in caribou-wolf co-occurrence via roads and seismic lines, leading to higher caribou mortality. This research highlights the need for region-specific management actions to conserve and recover widely distributed species.
The Natural Resources & Environmental Studies Institute (NRESi) at UNBC hosts a weekly lecture series at the Prince George campus. Anyone from the university or wider community with interest in the topic area is welcome to attend. Presentations are also made available to remote participants through Livestream and Blue Jeans. Go to http://www.unbc.ca/nres-institute/colloquium-webcasts to view the presentation remotely.
Past NRESi colloquium presentations and special lectures can be viewed on our video archive, available here.