AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Shifts in Caribou Calving Habitat and Space-Use

by Daniella Johanna Dekelaita

Institution: The University of Montana
Department: Wildlife Biology
Degree: MS
Year: 2014
Keywords: calving grounds; caribou; Newfoundland; resource selection; shifts; space-use; telemetry
Record ID: 2026535
Full text PDF: http://etd.lib.umt.edu/theses/available/etd-01212014-142036/


The woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) population in Newfoundland has been declining since the mid-1990s, and will likely continue to decline into the foreseeable future. This decrease in numbers has been accompanied by a large drop in recruitment. Predation is the primary cause of caribou calf mortality in Newfoundland, and since 2003, >80% of radio-collared calves died within the first 6 months of life. Two Newfoundland herds also have shifted their calving grounds over the past 15 to 20 years. Our objective was to investigate why these shifts have occurred. We analyzed female telemetry locations spanning 29 years, to delineate early-use (1980s and 1990s) and late-use (2003 and 2010) calving grounds, and to compare use and availability within and across these early- and late-use areas. We used a resource selection framework and evaluated shifts with respect to land-use, landcover, and NDVI over time. We found that females were not avoiding human disturbance or responding to climatic changes, but instead were changing selection choices. Models indicated that caribou were selecting for post-burn vegetation and more cover in late-use calving grounds. These results will likely help direct future research and management decisions to boost calving success in Newfoundland.