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Seasonal movements, habitat use, and winter feeding ecology of woodland caribou in West-Central British Columbia Cichowski, Deborah B


Three levels of resource selection (seasonal movements and habitat use, winter feeding site selection, and forage selection), by two populations of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in west-central British Columbia were examined to evaluate potential effects of logging on those populations. Seasonal movements and habitat use were determined by monitoring radiocollared adult female caribou; winter feeding site and forage selection were determined by following caribou tracks on winter ranges. Caribou moved from winter to summer ranges along relatively snow-free, low elevation migration routes. Itcha-IIgachuz-Rainbow caribou calved and spent the summer almost exclusively in alpine habitat in the Itcha, Ilgachuz and Rainbow Mountains; Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou used a variety of alpine and forested habitats in and adjacent to northern Tweedsmuir Park during summer. During winter, caribou in both areas used predominantly low elevation forested habitats. In the Tweedsmuir-Entiako area, some use of alpine habitat occurred during mid-winter in the Fawnie Mountains. In the Itcha-Ilgachuz area, 5-15% of the radiocollared caribou spent the winter in alpine and subalpine habitat on the north side of the Ilgachuz Mountains. Rainbow Mountain caribou used alpine habitat in the northern Rainbow and Ilgachuz Mountains during the winter. On low elevation winter ranges in both areas, caribou selected Dry Lichen / Lichen Moss and Lichen Moss caribou habitat types. Mature pine forest cover types on low and poor quality growing sites were also selected by caribou during winter. Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou selected large Fescue-Lichen meadows in early winter and Dry Lichen / Kinnikinnick sites in the very dry, cold Sub-Boreal Pine/Spruce (SBPSxc) biogeoclimatic subzone in late winter. In late winter, the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou selected mature Moss/Seepage Forest - Aspen Forest caribou habitat types. Forest cover types selected were mature pine and pine/spruce forest cover types on medium quality sites. Throughout the winter, pine forests in both areas were used predominantly for cratering for terrestrial lichens. Caribou selected areas with high terrestrial lichen abundance for cratering. Snow characteristics (snow depth, snow penetrability) did not appear to influence crater site selection. Snow was often deeper at cratering sites than at non-cratering sites because sites that were selected for abundant terrestrial lichen also had more open canopies which intercepted less snow. Arboreal lichens were used in all forest types; however, arboreal lichen use was greater in pine/spruce and spruce stands than in pine stands. Implications of logging to woodland caribou populations and winter range use are discussed and recommendations for logging guidelines compatible with woodland caribou are suggested.

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