Response of threatened species to linear features and landscape change in a managed forest ecosystem in West Central Alberta

How are caribou affected by the roads and seismic lines criss-crossing their habitat?

This project helps us understand how human use of caribou habitat affects caribou use and movements across their range.

The results will guide science-based restoration of caribou habitat and determine how caribou annual range shifts in response to a dynamic forest landscape.

This three year project (2013-2016) combines new technologies – specifically LiDAR based terrain metrics and non-invasive fecal sampling – to increase our understanding of how caribou and their predators respond to habitat disturbance across their range. We will combine this with multiyear animal data sets to determine how caribou and grizzly bears respond to a changing forest landscape. 

There are 4 primary objectives:

  1. To evaluate animal movement in relation to seismic cutlines and cutblocks at varied stages of recovery.
  2. Use multiyear telemetry datasets from caribou and grizzly bears to determine how animals respond to changing forest conditions.
  3. Use non-invasive genetic fecal surveys to increase the genetic library for these herds.
  4. Analysis hormones (indicative of stress and pregnancy rates) to determine the indirect effects of habitat disturbance on caribou.

This project will produce data and management tools which can be used to achieve sustainable harvesting of boreal forests when species at risk occur, and will also be used to inform science based restoration.

This project is being led by the University of Saskatchewan under primary funding by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.  It is being carried out by the University of Saskatchewan in collaboration with the fRI Research Caribou and Grizzly Bear Programs, with support from Weyerhaeuser Co. Ltd and West Fraser Mills.

Will be completed by Jan 2014
LiDAR based terrain metrics for Redrock Prairie Creek and Narraway Ranges

Annual landscape change condition maps – Completed

Annual landscape change condition sets to match both grizzly bear and caribou GPS location data
Starting January 2014
Fecal pellet collection
Analysis of animal movement data
Starting 2015
Modelling of animal use and forest harvesting
Will be completed by April 2014
Map of priority areas for habitat restoration
Annual landscape change condition maps - Completed
caribou on a hill
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Open access paper co-authored with Caribou Program.
Wolf Behaviour on Seismic Lines
Summaries and Communications | Infographics
Graphical abstract for a recent Caribou Program paper.
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Paper from the Caribou Program.
Heading for the hills? Caribou ranges shift in response to the growing anthropogenic disturbance footprint
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
2-pager from the Caribou Program.
predator movement on seismic lines infographic. download pdf for full text
Infographics | Summaries and Communications
Graphical abstract for the paper, "Natural regeneration on seismic lines influences movement behaviour of wolves and grizzly bears."
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Peer reviewed paper from the Caribou, GIS, and Grizzly Bear Programs.
aerial photo of a seismic line by adam sprott
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Peer reviewed publication from the Caribou Program
Seeking Sanctuary – the Neonatal Calving Period among Central Mountain Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Peer reviewed paper from the Caribou Program.
group caribou walking up a snowy hillside photo by doug macnearney
Ben Williamson In the foothills of west-central Alberta, the last of the snow does not melt until May. It is then that the dwindling herds of caribou begin their spring migration up into the Rocky Mountains. They leave behind a landscape rich in nutritious lichen and other delicacies but also—they hope—their predators. The timing is no accident. After a long, harsh winter in the Canadian boreal forest, the herd embarks on the climb up to their mountain refuge. Safer from wolves and far from human activity, the females give birth.
Heading for the Hills: New Paper from the Caribou Program Shows a Change in Herd Home Range
A new paper from the Caribou Program reveals how caribou from two herds in west-central Alberta are shifting their home range to higher altitudes.
Caribou Program Update: Data from Scat
Scat is a precious resource in ecology, rich in data that can tell us a lot about the size and health of herds.
Video: Setting Up Trail Cameras with the Caribou Program
Caribou Program fieldwork doesn't have an off season. The field crew have been busily snowshoeing up and down seismic lines in caribou habitat, setting up trail cameras. In this short video, Doug shows how they are collecting data and explains some of the Caribou Program projects.
Caribou Program Update – December 2015
The Caribou Program has a lot going on these days: field work, data analysis, paper writing and a brand new project! Here are some of the highlights.
Smiling field tech in hi viz giving thumbs up in a cutblock
The Caribou Program's Becky Viejou is halfway through her STIP internship.
Field update from the fRI Caribou Program crew working in Two Lakes and Kakwa
Update from the Hinton crew for the fRI Caribou Program
Caribou Program presentations from the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society conference
Dr. Rebecca Viejou
Dr. Rebecca Viejou
Senior Biologist
Barry Nobert
Barry Nobert
Wildlife Biologist
Doug MacNearney
Doug MacNearney
Species At Risk Habitat Biologist
Kelsey Greenlay
Kelsey Greenlay
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Program Lead
Gord Stenhouse
Gord Stenhouse
Julie Duval
Julie Duval