left deer browsing in conifer forest in winter. right the same but caribou

Resource Use of Mountain Caribou, White-tailed Deer, and other Sympatric Ungulates in West-central Alberta

Deer, moose, and elk are increasing in distribution and abundance within caribou ranges in Alberta, resulting in increased populations of shared predators like wolves, cougars, or bears. This apparent competition raises the risk of predation for caribou, resulting in population declines. White-tailed deer are increasing across caribou ranges, but little is known about their resource use and effect on threatened caribou.

This Master’s project, led by Suzanne Stevenson and supervised by Dr. Chris Johnson at the University of Northern British Columbia, was carried out in collaboration with the fRI Research Caribou Program. Stevenson used GPS collar data to create summer and winter RSFs for white-tailed deer for the first time in west-central Alberta. She then compared these with caribou RSFs to understand spatial overlap that may increase apparent competition between these species. Additionally, Stevenson used DNA metabarcoding from the fecal pellets of moose, elk, caribou, mule deer, and white-tailed deer to compare their winter diets. This is the first such information on white-tailed deer diet in Alberta.

Among many important findings, the study identified human disturbance and landscape attributes that contribute to spatial overlap between white-tailed deer and caribou. In particular, both species use mature conifer in the winter. While all five ungulate species share certain forage species, there is low overlap of the abundance of each plant food between each species. More results are discussed in the related publications.

Winter 2021
Master's Project Begins
Winter 2022
Fecal samples collected
Fall 2022
Lab Work Complete
Winter 2023
Spatial Analysis Complete
Summer 2023
Diet analysis Complete
December 2023
Successful Thesis Defense
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
Summary of some important findings from Suzanne Stevenson's Master's thesis.
Scientific Publications | Theses
Master's thesis of Suzanne Stevenson, supervised by Dr. Chris Johnson at UNBC and Dr. Laura Finnegan of the Caribou Program.
Suzanne Stevenson's thesis lays the groundwork for understanding the ecology of white-tailed deer in west-central Alberta, and how they relate to threatened caribou populations.
Suzanne Stevenson
Suzanne Stevenson
FSCP Program Coordinator
dr. chris johnson
Dr. Chris Johnson
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Program Lead
dr roy rea
Dr. Roy Rea
Assistant Professor