UBC Theses and Dissertations
Human conflict and coexistence with mountain goats in a protected alpine landscape Balyx, Laura
Of the North American ungulates, mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are among the most sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance. In British Columbia (BC), there is a particularly vulnerable population of mountain goats in Cathedral Provincial Park (CPP). The herd in CPP is isolated and subject to year-round disturbance from human recreation (e.g., hiking, camping, mountaineering) and helicopters. These disturbances can cause mountain goats to modify space use and movements, thus increasing human-wildlife interactions and decreasing the quality of available habitat. My research provides a unique opportunity to study mountain goats in a protected area where the herd interacts with both people and helicopters. Understanding the response of mountain goats to these disturbances is essential for conserving future populations and managing anthropogenic disturbance in protected areas. From 2019 – 2021, I used GPS collar location data from 11 mountain goats and assessed shifts in seasonal space use and habitat selection. I tested the anthropogenic resource conditioning hypothesis to determine if goats are attracted to human-use areas in the summer. I also tested the helicopter vigilance hypothesis to determine if goats perceive helicopters as a threat and hide to avoid the helicopter. Results indicated significant seasonal shifts in habitat selection, where mountain goats primarily select for areas associated with humans in the summer, thus supporting my hypothesis. Distance to escape terrain, solar radiation, NDVI, and aspect were the strongest indicators of mountain goat selection overall. Mountain goats modified habitat selection and movement in response to helicopter activity, as goats selected for lower quality habitat and exhibited more tortuous movements immediately after a helicopter event. This result partially supported my hypotheses on goat response to helicopter activity. In addition, when considering resource selection-based winter range, helicopters exceeded provincial best management practice distance thresholds 40% of the time. These are important findings as they add to the limited research on goats in BC and provide evidence that non-consumptive anthropogenic activity impacts wildlife in protected areas. For effective management and to improve human-mountain goat coexistence in CPP, it is recommended that CPP managers: 1) conduct anthropogenic salt control in human use areas; 2) use diversionary salt along migratory pathways; and 3) update mountain goat winter range polygons.
Item Citations and Data
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