Winter Habitat of the Boreal Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the Northwestern Region of the Mistik Forest Management Area, Saskatchewan

Posted on Dec 5, 2017

Author

by Gilbert PROULX, and Kevin GILLIS

Correspondence: G. Proulx, Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd., 229 Lilac Terrace, Sherwood Park, Alberta, T8H 1W3, Canada.

Email: gproulx@alphawildlife.ca


Abstract

In January 2017, we surveyed the distribution of boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the northwestern region of the Mistik Forest Management Area (FMA), Saskatchewan, a region known for its extensive jack pine (Pinus banksiana) stands. A total of 209 individual caribou tracks were recorded along 10 transects totalizing 126,845 m. Tracks were significantly more frequent than expected in leading (≥60% of stand’s composition) jack pine stands (P<0.001). Black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack (Larix laricinia) muskegs were used in proportion to their availability (P>0.05). Caribou avoided (P<0.05) leading aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands, and shrub and grass openings. This study showed that caribou preferred jack pine stands in the northwestern region of the Mistik FMA area. These jack pine stands were non-merchantable; most originated from a 25-year-old fire, and were infected with mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum). Jack pine stands with caribou tracks were found in close proximity to muskegs. Field observations indicated that animals travelled through both habitat types. Although there were many similarities between the findings of this study and those of 2009-2012 in the eastern and southern regions of the FMA area, habitat conservation should be customized at regional level according to the availability of vegetation types, the history of disturbances, and the regeneration capabilities of disturbed landscapes.

Key Words: Boreal Woodland Caribou, Jack Pine, Muskegs, Rangifer tarandus, Saskatchewan, Winter Habitat Use.

 

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