Scientific Assessment to Inform the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population, in Canada - 2011 Update: Results

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The description of boreal caribou critical habitat consists in the delineation and location of the range and the certainty in range delineation (Section 3.1), the integrated range assessment (Section 3.2), information supporting the identification of disturbance-based management thresholds (Section 3.3), and a description of the key bio-physical attributes (Section 3.4). Factsheets regrouping range-specific results and supplemental information for critical habitat identification have also been developed (Appendix 7.10).

Substantial changes to the delineation of boreal caribou ranges have been made since the 2008 Scientific Review, particularly in the Northwest Territories (NT), Alberta, and Ontario (Figure 13). Compared to the 2008 Scientific Review, a total of 57 ranges are still currently recognized by jurisdictions in Canada. However, significant changes occurred, with the number of ranges either decreasing (NT) or increasing (Ontario) in some jurisdictions. Table 10 summarizes the distribution of boreal caribou ranges within the 3 range delineation categories.

Based on the information provided to EC, the main changes to boreal caribou ranges in Canada since the Scientific Review 2008 are:

Table 10. Number of boreal caribou ranges in Canada within the following three delineation types: Conservation Unit, Improved Conservation Unit, and Local Population.
Range Type Number of Ranges
Conservation Unit 18
Improved Conservation Unit 13
Local Population 26

Figure 13. Boreal caribou ranges in Canada identified for the description of critical habitat.

Figure 13. Map illustrating the location of the 57 boreal caribou ranges across the boreal ecozones in Canada.
Figure 13. Map illustrating the location of the 57 boreal caribou ranges across the boreal ecozones in Canada.

Results obtained from applying the methodology for the risk assessment described in Section 2.4.6.1 are presented in Table 10.

Of the 57 currently delineated ranges in Canada, 17 (30%) were assessed in the "self-sustaining" (SS) category, 7 (12%) in the "not self-sustaining/self-sustaining" (NSS/SS) category, and 33 (58%) in the "‘not self-sustaining" (NSS) category. The repartition of likelihood statements for each self-sustaining outcomes was as follow:

Results from the integrated risk assessment were also mapped in Figure 14. The distribution of the assessment outcomes demonstrates an East-West gradient of self-sustainability, with higher proportion of ranges not self-sustaining in the western portion of the caribou distribution. With the exception of Red Wine Mountain, the ranges in the eastern portion assessed as "not self-sustaining" are all in the southern limit of caribou distribution. The underlying causes include small, highly disturbed, isolated populations (Val d’Or, Charlevoix), rapid population decline (Kesagami), and high total disturbance (Sydney, Pipmuacan).

Table 11. Results for the Integrated Risk Assessment and for the supporting indicators assessing boreal caribou ranges based on two criteria of self-sustaining local population: 1) stable or positive population growth over the short term (≤ 20 years) estimated using Pr (λ ≥ stable), and 2) persistence over the long-term (≥ 50 years) estimated using the indicator of quasi-extinction (Pr (N≥Qext)).

Figure 14. Integrated Risk Assessment for boreal caribou ranges in Canada. Self-sustainability outcomes (i.e., self-sustaining, not self-sustaining, or not self-sustaining/self-sustaining) for each range were assigned based on the likelihood statement describing the range’s capacity to maintain a self-sustaining local population of boreal caribou.

Figure 14. Map of the 57 boreal caribou ranges in Canada. Each range is categorized as either very unlikely, unlikely, as likely as not, likely or very likely of maintaining a self-sustaining population.

The methodology described in Section 2.4.6.2 was implemented for a sample of ranges to demonstrate the potential application and interpretation of a risk-based framework to support recovery planning, including but not limited to the use of management thresholds. As indicated in Section 2.4.6.2 the consideration of management threshold is informed by science but determined by managers in accordance with decisions regarding the acceptable level of risk. To illustrate the approach, the level of acceptable risk necessary for threshold determination was set concordant with the probability interval from the integrated risk assessment associated with a likely outcome, which corresponds to the weight of evidence indicating that a range was likely to support a self-sustaining population, and interpreted as relatively low risk (see Figure 11). sThe interval includes a range of estimated probabilities from greater or equal to 60 to 90%, corresponding to a total range-level disturbance values from 10 to 35%, inclusive of a 500 m buffer on all anthropogenic disturbances. The upper end of the disturbance interval was imposed as the “disturbance threshold” for demonstration purposes (Figure 15).

Figure 15. Intervals of disturbance reflecting relative levels of risk associated with achieving a desired outcome of maintaining range conditions necessary to support a self-sustaining population of boreal caribou. The assignment of “Disturbance Threshold” is for illustrative purposes only.

Figure 15. Diagram illustrating changes in the risk of not meeting the recovery goal of a self-sustaining local population along a disturbance continuum (fire and buffered anthropogenic). The risk is very low at low levels of disturbance (< 10% disturbance, fire and buffered anthropogenic) and becomes very high at high disturbance levels (> 75% disturbance, fire and buffered anthropogenic). A disturbance threshold is identified at 35% disturbance for illustrative purposes.

Three caribou ranges were evaluated using the stepwise approach summarized in Figure 12: West-side Athabasca River, Alberta; Smoothstone-Wapawekka, Saskatchewan, and North Interlake, Manitoba.

West-side Athabasca River: Alberta

At 69% total disturbance (Figure 16a), this range falls in the high risk category and is unlikely to support a self-sustaining population based on habitat condition. This level of disturbance is also well in excess of the “disturbance threshold”. The reported average population trend over five years is rapidly declining (λ = 0.92; last reported value 0.78). While the reported population size of 204-272 indicates high potential for persistence, given a low risk of quasi-extinction under good habitat and population conditions (Pr (N≥Qext) = 0.80-0.83), the projected quasi-extinction risk based on current population and habitat conditions indicates the population is highly unlikely to persist over the next 50 years.

Assessment of potential future scenarios (Figure 16b) indicates some potential for the range condition to improve through passive recovery of presently disturbed areas. However, it could take between 51 and 100 years for the range to recover to a condition consistent with the low risk category (also for illustrative purposes, the disturbance threshold), assuming no new anthropogenic or natural disturbances. Given the very high risk of local extirpation under current conditions, and natural recovery rates that are insufficient to offset short term extinction risk, the management scenario for this population suggests that active recovery efforts are required to reduce risk.

Monitoring of population condition should continue to assess response to recovery actions and associated changes in range condition.

Figure 16. Current disturbance (a) and potential future population and range conditions (b) on the West-side Athabasca River caribou range.

Figure 16. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the West-side Athabasca River caribou range.
Figure 16. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the West-side Athabasca River caribou range.

Smoothstone-Wapaweka: Saskatchewan

At 33% total disturbance (Figure 17a), the range falls in the low risk category, which suggests it is likely to support a self-sustaining population based on habitat condition. The “disturbance threshold” has not been surpassed. However, the reported population trend is "declining". In addition, while the reported population size of 700 indicates a very low risk of extinction under good habitat and population conditions (Pr(N≥Qext) = 0.94), the projected quasi-extinction risk inferred from population trend under the observed habitat conditions is estimated at 0.38, indicating that the population faces high risk, and is unlikely to persist above a critical number of 10 individuals if current conditions are maintained. Visual inspection of mapped disturbance on the range (Figure 19a) suggests the highly dispersed nature of the disturbance, in conjunction with significant water bodies (not illustrated here), have contributed to a paucity of large, undisturbed areas within the range.

Assessment of future scenarios (Figure 17b) indicates potential for range condition to be improved within the low risk category through passive recovery of presently disturbed areas, 17% of which (47% of the total) consist of recent burns (≤ 40 years). While the likelihood of persistence is low if current conditions were maintained, natural recovery appears sufficient to offset short term extinction risk, assuming other threats are managed. Although the range is currently below the “disturbance threshold”, the management scenario for this population is for conservation of remaining undisturbed habitat, to avoid increases in risk.

Monitoring should be implemented to confirm expected improvements to population condition in association with recovery of disturbed areas.

Figure 17. Current disturbance (a) and potential future population and range conditions (b) on the Smoothstone-Wapawekka caribou range.

Figure 17. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the Smoothstone-Wapawekka caribou range.
Figure 17. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the Smoothstone-Wapawekka caribou range.

North Interlake: Manitoba

At 17% total disturbance (Figure 18a), the range falls in the low risk category, which suggests it is likely to support a self-sustaining population based on habitat condition. The “disturbance threshold” has not been surpassed. However, the reported population size of 50-75 indicates a moderate risk of local extinction under good habitat and population conditions (Pr (N≥Qext) = 0.52-0.61), due to small population size.

Assessment of future scenarios (Figure 18b) indicates that range condition is likely to remain within the low risk category. The likelihood of persistence will remain uncertain and continue to represent moderate risk unless population size increases. Although the range is currently below the “disturbance threshold”, the risk associated with the small population size suggests a cautious management approach to consideration of additional disturbance to avoid increasing risk. The location of the range on a peninsula, surrounded by water on 3 sides (not illustrated here) suggests isolation that also contributes to risk.

Monitoring should be implemented to confirm population condition and evaluate response to any changes within the range.

Figure 18. Current disturbance (a) and potential future population and range conditions (b) on the North Interlake caribou range.

Figure 18. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the North Interlake caribou range.
Figure 18. a) map showing areas affected by fire and by linear and polygonal anthropogenic disturbance and b) the probability that the population growth rate is either stable or positive (Pr (λ ≥ stable)) as a function of percent (%) total disturbance based on four (4) hypothetical habitat dynamic scenarios: (1) Current: static conditions;  (2) Recovery Only: passive recovery of old disturbances; (3) Natural Disturbance Only (Nat. Dist. Only): new disturbances created by fire without passive recovery; and (4) Recovery + Nat. Dist.: the combined effects of new fires and passive recovery of old disturbances, averaged for three time intervals (1-20, 21-50, 51-100 yrs). This example is for the North Interlake caribou range.

For purposes of illustrating application of the risk-based framework to thresholds interpretation, it was necessary to assign a isturbance-based management threshold. It is clear from the examples presented that there is considerable utility in the systematic approach to building on the integrated risk assessment to more fully interpret potential outcomes and guide recovery planning, through enhanced understanding of range-specific attributes. This is an objective process that does not require the determination of management thresholds. However, application of disturbance-based management thresholds provides specific direction relative to management objectives and acceptable risk.

In the examples presented, the disturbance threshold was commensurate with the disturbance interval representing a likely outcome with respect to maintaining a self-sustaining population. The selection of higher or lower thresholds would have different interpretations with respect to likelihood of achieving the recovery objective. The results also suggest there may be considerable value in identifying graduated thresholds, to support a variety of conservation and restoration actions given different management scenarios and range-specific circumstances. Indiscriminate application of a single, fixed threshold may not achieve desired outcomes, particularly in the absence of range-specific interpretation.

Table 12. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Taiga Shield ecozone.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Upland tundra dominated by ericaceous shrubs (Ericaceae spp.), lichen, grasses and sedges.
Lowland tundra composed of peatland complexes (muskeg and string bogs), lakes, rivers and riparian valleys.
Dense mature conifer and open conifer forests with abundant lichens.1, 2

Calving

String bogs, treed bogs, small open wetlands (<1 km²) and large muskeg.1, 3
Calving on peninsulas and islands increases with amount of open water.1, 4

Post-calving

Forested wetlands.1

Rutting

Open wetlands.1

Winter

Forested areas are used in years of low snow accumulation, otherwise winter habitat selection reflects general avoidance of deep snow, including use of tundra habitat at higher elevations in mountainous regions and bogs along lakes or oceans.5, 6
Forested wetlands.6
Tundra uplands and sand flats in proximity to water.6
Bog edges, glacial erratics and bedrock erratics with lichen, and lakes for loafing or ruminating.4, 6, 7
Some use of mature white spruce and fir stands as alternative to habitat with arboreal lichens.8

Travel

Connectivity between selected habitat types important given reported patterns of movement among caribou.
Some females travel 200 to 500 km from winter areas to calving sites.1
Females show fidelity to post-calving sites returning to within 6.7 km of a given location in consecutive years.8

Avoidance

Avoidance of roads and areas recently burned (< 40 yrs).9

1 Brown et al. (1986);
2 Courtois et al. (2004);
3 Brown and Theberge (1985);
4 Schmelzer et al. (2004);
5 Brown and Theberge (1990);
6 Schmelzer et al. (2004);
7 I. Schmelzer (pers. comm.);
8 Schaefer et al. (2000);
9 Appendix 7.3.

Table 13. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Hudson Plains ecozone.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Habitats selected generally to reduce predation risk.1
Shrub rich treed muskeg and mature conifer forests.1, 2
Poorly drained areas dominated by sedges, mosses and lichens, as well as open black spruce and tamarack forests.3
Elevations of 150m.4
4

Calving

Mature conifer stand with and without lichens and wetlands. Preference for higher altitudes compared to habitat use during other periods.1

Post-calving

Fens, bogs and lakes.5

Rutting

Wetlands and conifer stands with lichen. Mature and regenerating conifer stands are also used, albeit to a lesser degree.1

Winter

Dense and mature conifer forests with lichens and wetlands.1, 5
Peatlands dominated by open bogs and terrestrial lichens.6
7

Travel

Movements greatest in fall/winter when caribou transition from calving to winter habitat.8
2

Avoidance

Avoid herbaceous areas and areas burned within 40 yrs.4
Deciduous-dominated forests, lichen woodlands and lichen heaths avoided during winter.6
Avoidance of human development (e.g. roads) provided sufficient caribou habitat remains.1, 4
1

1 Courtois (2003);
2 Brown (2005);
3 Magoun et al. (2005);
4 Appendix 7.3;
5 Pearce and Eccles (2004);
6 Brokx (1965);
7 Brown et al. (2007);
8 Brown et al. (2003).

The Boreal Shield ecozone has been divided into 5 sub-regions (Tables 16-20) as per EC 2008 (Appendix 7.3):

Table 14. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Shield East.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Conifer-feather moss forests on poorly-drained sites and mature conifer uplands with abundant terrestrial lichen.1, 2
Water bodies and wetlands are also selected.2
Elevations of 300 m.3
Intermediate values of NDVI.3
Selection for regenerating burns >40 yrs old.3

Calving

Open wetlands, peninsulas and islands for calving in northeastern Québec.4
Sedges, ericaceous species, bryophytes, alder and larch selected in spring in eastern regions (NF&L).5
Balsam fir, dense black spruce stands, spruce-fir forests older than 40 yrs, and dry bare land with high lichen densities selected in the western regions.6
Mature conifer stands, as well as wetlands selected in the southern regions. Higher altitudes used for calving in this area rather than lake or water bodies.2

Post-calving

Open and forested wetlands and continued use of peninsulas and islands in northeastern Québec.4
Aquatic plants, dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa), deciduous shrubs, ericaceous species and moss in NF&L.5

Rutting

Open wetlands selected in northeastern Québec.4
Terrestrial and arboreal lichens, forbs, sedges, mosses and coniferous and deciduous shrubs selected in NF&L.5
Balsam fir stands, dense spruce stands, mature and regenerating conifer stands, other forest stands with abundant lichens, wetlands and dry bare lands preferred in southern extent.2, 6, 7

Winter

Forested wetlands selected in Labrador and northern Québec.3 Some use of upland-tundra for loafing3
Dry bare land, wetlands, mature conifer forests with lichen, balsam fir stands, dense spruce stands, and mixed spruce-fir forests older than 40 yrs selected in southern areas, up to 80 yrs old in other areas.2, 6, 7
Use of mature forests protected from harvesting increases probability of encounters with wolves that select the same habitats in winter.7
Shallow snow depths selected in late winter.7

Travel

Caribou move greater distances during the rutting season.4

Avoidance

Avoid deciduous and mixed forests, jack pine forests less than 40 yrs old and heaths without lichens all year round.6, 7, 8
Avoid disturbed habitats, including roads, recreational areas, burns and clear-cuts or harvested areas used by wolves.2, 3, 6, 7, 8

1 Arsenault et al. (1997);
2 Courtois (2003);
3 Appendix 7.3;
4 Brown et al. (1986);
5 Bergerud (1972);
6 Crête et al. (2004);
7 Courbin et al. (2009);
8 Courtois et al. (2007).

Table 15. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Shield Southeast.
Scale of selection Description

Broad scale

Late seral-stage black spruce-dominated lowlands and jack pine-dominated uplands.1
Elevations of 300 m.2
Intermediate values of NDVI.2
Selection for old (>40 yrs) burns.2

Calving

Open, medium-closed conifer forests.3

Post-calving

Not available.

Rutting

Dense and open mature conifer forests of spruce, tamarack, jack pine and young conifer forests between 30 to 50 yrs old.3

Winter

Charlevoix caribou select open stands of balsam fir, balsam fir-black spruce, black spruce, black-spruce-tamarack and jack pine stands older than 70 yrs. Dry bare lands, 30 to 50 yrs old stands of balsam fir or fir-black spruce, as well as 50 yr old jack pine stands, and arboreal and terrestrial lichens are also selected.3, 5

Travel

Not available.

Avoidance

Avoidance of roads and burns <50 yrs old.2, 4

1 Duchesne et al. (2000);
2 Appendix 7.3;
3 Lefort et al. (2006);
4 Schaefer and Pruitt (1991);
5 Sebbane et al. (2002).

Table 16. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Shield Central.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Late seral-stage black spruce-dominated lowlands and jack pine dominated uplands.1, 2, 3
Open black spruce lowlands are selected near the Québec/Ontario border.3
Low-density late seral-stage jack pine or black spruce forests and black spruce/tamarack-dominated peatlands with abundant terrestrial and moderate arboreal lichens are selected in areas of Ontario.3, 4, 5, 6
Caribou also use areas with dry to moist sandy to loamy soils and shallow soils over bedrock.6
Elevations of 300 m.7
Intermediate values of NDVI.7
Selection for regenerating burns >40 yrs old.7

Calving

Open canopies of mature black spruce and mesic peatland with ericaceous species for calving are selected for calving in the Claybelt region.3
Females with calves selected areas with more abundant ericaceous shrubs and terrestrial lichens during the summer compared to females without calves.3

Post-calving

Not available.

Rutting

Not available.

Winter

Large areas of contiguous forests dominated by black spruce.8
Open conifer forests or forests with lower tree densities where terrestrial and arboreal lichen are abundant and there is significant less snow (e.g. shorelines) are also selected.4, 6

Travel

Not available.

Avoidance

Avoid recently downed woody debris, dense shrubs and larch during the calving season in the Claybelt region.3
Avoid mixed conifer and deciduous forests in winter.8
Areas of deep snow are also avoided during winter.4
Avoidance of roads and recent burns (<40 yrs old).7

1 Arseneault et al. (1997);
2 Courtois et al. (2003);
3 Lantin et al. (2003);
4 Bergerud (1985);
5 Vors (2006);
6 Wilson (2000);
7 Appendix 7.3;
8 Brown et al. (2007)

Table 17. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Shield West Central.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Mature conifer uplands and conifer/tamarack dominated lowlands.1, 2, 3, 4
Conifer/tamarack-dominated peatlands with abundant arboreal lichens, upland mature conifer forests stands with abundant terrestrial lichen and rocky areas with sparse trees.5, 6, 7
Elevations of 300 m.8
Intermediate values of NDVI.8
Selection for regenerating burns >40 yrs old.8

Calving

Forested wetlands/treed bog, old burns, sparse conifer and dense spruce selected in areas of northwestern Ontario.9
Peatlands, raised hillrocks with large muskeg areas, forested islands and shorelines of large lakes selected during calving.1, 2, 10, 11, 12
Jack pine or jack pine/black spruce forests also used for calving in Manitoba.5

Post-calving

Peatland with forested islands, islands, and shorelines selected during summer.10, 12
Mature, dense forest stands also selected.5, 13

Rutting

Semi-open and open bogs and mature conifer uplands selected during rutting. Terrestrial lichens and arboreal lichens, sedges and bog ericoids (Andromeda glaucophylla, Chamaedaphne calyculata, Kalmia polifolia, Ledum groenlandicum) are important sources of forage.5

Winter

Mature coniferous stands.10, 14
Areas with a high proportion of lakes (>5-100 ha) with convoluted shorelines.15
Caribou forage in areas with high lichen abundance and fewer shrubs in jack pine and black spruce stands with low tree densities, low basal areas and short heights.16
Caribou select open bogs, intermediate to mature jack pine rock ridges, jack pine habitats with lichens and lakes, but move to jack pine ridges in mature conifer stands with lichen when winter conditions prevent foraging in bogs in Manitoba in winter. 5, 6, 17
Arboreal lichens, terrestrial lichens, sedges and ericaceous species are an important source of forage.18

Travel

Caribou in Ontario travel mainly in conifer forests, avoiding open habitats (e.g., lakes, disturbed areas, etc.) when migrating from summer to winter habitat.2
Use frozen lakes for travel during winter/spring, in some instances to reach islands for calving.1, 5, 8, 11
Spring migration is not restricted to specific travel routes.12
Caribou moved 8 to 60 km away after logging operations were begun.20

Avoidance

Shrub-rich fens are avoided during calving.9
Tamarack fens avoided during post-calving.12
Early successional stands, mixed softwood stands and areas with wind felled trees avoided in winter.14, 18
Vesicular ice, areas with snow depths greater than 65 cm and snow crusted areas with a hardness >400g/cm² were also avoided during winter.17
Caribou used areas immediately post fire, but then gradually avoided these areas as more time elapsed.8, 18
Areas where active logging is taking place are avoided.19, 20
Avoidance of roads.8

1 Bergerud et al. (1990);
2 Ferguson and Elkie (2004a);
3 Ferguson and Elkie (2004b);
4 Vors (2006);
5 Darby and Pruitt (1984);
6 Schaefer (1988);
7 O’Brien et al. (2006);
8 Appendix 7.3;
9 Hillis et al. (1998);
10 Armstrong et al. (2000);
11 O’Flaherty et al. (2007);
12 Cumming and Beange (1987);
13 Pearce and Eccles (2004);
14 Martinez (1998);
15 Ferguson and Elkie (2005);
16 Antoniak and Cumming (1998);
17 Stardom (1975);
18 Schaefer and Pruitt (1991);
19 Cumming and Hyer (1998);
20 Schindler et al. (2007).

Table 18. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Shield West.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Conifer/tamarack-dominated peatland complexes and upland moderate to dense mature conifer forests with abundant lichens.1, 2, 3
Elevations of 300 m.4
Intermediate values of NDVI.4
Selection for old (>40 yrs) burns.4

Calving

Peatlands, stands dominated by black spruce and treed muskeg all used for calving.5, 6
Some caribou will use islands and lakeshores during calving.3, 7

Post-calving

Wooded lakeshores, islands, sparsely treed rock, upland conifer-spruce and treed muskeg are used in summer.8, 7
Sites with a high abundance of arboreal lichen are important for foraging in some areas.9
Dense conifer and mixed forests are also used.3

Rutting

Dense and sparse conifer and mixed forests.3
Open riparian habitats are also used during the rut.10

Winter

Mature upland spruce, pine stands and treed muskeg.8
Jack pine dominated forests.2
In areas of Ontario, caribou select sparse and dense conifer, mixed forests and treed bogs.3
In some areas caribou will select habitat with greater visibility and further away from forest edges.9

Travel

Some males move >100 km during the rutting season.10
Traditional travel routes between summer and winter ranges occur in large peatland complexes in the Wabowden and Gormley area.11

Avoidance

Avoid shrub-rich habitats and hardwood-dominated stands.1, 2, 8
Avoidance of conifer stands that are not black spruce, deciduous stands, shrub-rich fens and wetlands during calving.3, 6
Avoid recent burns and disturbed/fragmented areas, including roads.3, 4, 8

1 Arseneault et al. (1997);
2 O’Brien et al. (2006);
3 Hillis et al. (1998);
4 Appendix 7.3;
5 Rettie (1998);
6 Hirai (1998);
7 Shoesmith and Storey (1977);
8 Metsaranta and Mallory (2007);
9 Lander (2006);
10 V. Chrichton (pers. comm.);
11 Brown et al. (2000).

Table 19. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Plains ecozone.
Scale of selection

Description

Broad scale

Caribou in Boreal Plains of Alberta select late seral-stage (>50 yrs old) conifer forest and treed peatlands with abundant lichens.1, 2, 3, 4, 5
In northeastern Alberta, caribou habitat use restricted primarily to peatland complexes.1
Elevations of 1135 m.6
Intermediate levels of NDVI.6
Selected old (>40 yrs) burns.6

Calving

Bogs and mature forests selected for calving in Alberta.3, 4
In Saskatchewan, peatlands and stands dominated by black spruce and lowland black spruce stands within muskeg are used for calving.7, 9

Post-calving

Forest stands older than 50 yrs.11
Upland black spruce/jack pine forests, lowland black spruce, young jack pine and open and treed peatlands and muskeg are also selected during summer.7, 12, 13
In some areas, sites with abundant arboreal lichen are selected during summer.14

Rutting

Mature forests.3
Upland black spruce/jack pine forests, lowland black spruce, young jack pine and open and treed peatlands and muskeg during summer.7, 12

Winter

Treed peatlands, treed bog and treed fen and open fen complexes with >50% peatland coverage with high abundance of lichens.15, 16, 17
Mature forest > 50 yrs old.3, 11
Upland black spruce/jack pine forests, lowland black spruce, young jack pine and open and treed peatlands.7, 12, 13

Travel

Not available.

Avoidance

Avoid upland and fen habitats, aspen dominated stands, immature stands and large rivers all year round.3, 4, 6, 9
Avoid matrix-type habitat, including areas with abundant shrubs, disturbed/fragmented habitats, hardwood/deciduous dominated forest stands, and edge habitat.1, 2, 8
Avoid recent burns, main roads, seismic lines, well sites and areas with a high density of cut blocks.6, 10
Avoidance of water.6

1 Stuart-Smith et al. (1997);
2 Smith (2004);
3 Neufeld (2006);
4 James (1999);
5 McLoughlin et al. (2003);
6 Appendix 7.3;
7 Rettie (1998);
8 Arsenault (2003);
9 Hirai (1998);
10 Dyer (1999);
11 Dalerum et al. (2007);
12 Rettie and Messier (2000);
13 Metsaranta and Mallory (2007);
14 Lander (2006);
15 Anderson (1999);
16 Bradshaw et al. (1995);
17 Anderson et al. (2000).

Table 20. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Montane Cordillera ecozone.
Scale of selection Description

Broad scale

Little Smoky population spends the entire year in subalpine and upper foothill regions in upland lodge pole pine, mixed conifer lodgepole pine/black spruce and treed muskeg.1 , 4, 5
Open, pine dominated stands of 80 yrs or more.2, 3

Calving

Areas closer to cut-blocks with a high proportion of larch are selected during calving.6

Post-calving

Homogeneous areas of conifer dominated stands.6

Rutting

Not available.

Winter

Caribou use areas with a high proportion of larch and pine forests during winter.6

Travel

Not available.

Avoidance

Avoid areas with a large proportion of cut blocks.6
Avoidance of seismic lines greatest during calving season.6
Avoid white spruce stands which generally have a low abundance of lichens7, aspen stands and large rivers.6

1 Edmonds (1988);
2 Thomas et al. (1996);
3 Szkorupa (2002);
4 Edmonds (1993);
5 Johnson (1980);
6 Neufeld (2006);
7 Saher (2005).

Table 21. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Taiga Plains ecozone.
Selection Scale Description

Broad scale

In NWT caribou prefer open coniferous habitat in all seasons of the year and in the Dehcho prefer using forest stand ages of 100 years or older.1
Large patches of spruce peatland with reference for bogs over fens and upland and lowland black spruce forests with abundant lichens.2, 3

Calving

Open conifer forests, tussock tundra, low shrub, riparian, and recent burns in northern extreme of the NWT range.4
In the Snake-Sahtaneh watershed of BC, caribou observed on small islands of mature black spruce or mixed forests within peatlands, in old burns at the edge of wetlands, in alder thickets with abundant standing water and on lake shores.2

Post-calving

Open coniferous forests with abundant lichen, low shrub, riparian, tussock tundra, sparsely vegetated habitat, and recent burns in the northern extreme of the NT range.4
Old burns and neighbouring remnant unburned forests selected in late spring, early summer in Snake-Sahtaneh watershed.2

Rutting

Open coniferous and mixedwood forests, low shrub, riparian tussock tundra, and recent burns in northern extreme of NWT range.4
Regenerating burns and sparsely vegetated habitat.4

Winter

Open coniferous forest with abundant lichen and riparian areas.1, 2, 4

Travel

In NWT some female caribou have little fidelity to calving areas between years, especially in the northern portions of the range, while others show considerable fidelity over successive (2-3) years.5, 6
In NWT Mean daily rates of movement increase during the rut. They are greatest in the late-winter prior to pre-calving period.6, 7

Avoidance

Avoid edge habita.8
During calving at northern extreme of range in NWT avoid closed mixed forests and water.4
In northern extreme of range in NWT avoid closed deciduous and mixed forests in summer, fall, and winter. Water also avoided in fall, closed coniferous forest avoided in winter.4
Avoid forest stand <10 years old during summer.9

1 Nagy and Larter, unpublished data;
2 Culling et al. (2006);
3 McLoughlin et al. (2005);
4 Nagy et al. 2006;
5 Larter and Allaire (2007);
6 Nagy et al., unpublished data;
7 Larter and Allaire (2010);
8 McLoughlin et al. (2005);
9 Dalerum et al. (2007).

Table 22. Biophysical attributes of boreal caribou habitat in the Boreal Cordillera ecozone.
Scale of selection Description
Broad scale Large patches of spruce peatland and lowland and upland black spruce forests with abundant lichens.1
Calving Open conifer forests, tussock tundra, low shrub, riparian, recent burns and south and west aspects.2
Post-calving Open conifer forests with abundant lichens, low shrub, tussock tundra, sparsely vegetated habitat, recent burns and west aspects.2
Rutting Open coniferous and mixedwood forests, low shrub, riparian, tussock tundra, recent burns and west aspects.2
Winter Open coniferous forests with abundant lichens and riparian habitats.2
Travel Not available.
Avoidance Avoid closed mixed forests, and water during calving and parts of the winter.2
Avoid closed spruce forests and conifer forests without lichens in mid-winter.2
Avoid closed deciduous forests year round and avoid mixed forests during post calving and rut. Water is also avoided during the rut.2

1 Culling et al. (2006);
2 Nagy et al. (2006)

No information was available for either the Southern Arctic ecozone or Taiga Cordillera ecozone (EC 2008).

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