David Latham, University of Alberta
Woodland caribou are a threatened species in Alberta. A number of factors have been implicated in their decline. Predation (particularly by wolves) is of particular concern for caribou as wolf numbers may be increasing in and around caribou ranges. It has been suggested that changes in moose and deer numbers and distributions around caribou ranges may have led to an increase in wolves. Caribou have traditionally used different habitat to moose, deer, and wolves; any activities that alter the spatial relationships between these species may result in increased wolf-caribou encounters, and consequently caribou predation events. Recent studies have shown that moose, deer, and wolf use of caribou range has increased.
The aims of this study are to (1) obtain an estimate of moose and deer density and distribution in a caribou range in northeastern Alberta to assess if there is currently sufficient ungulate biomass to support viable wolf populations in caribou habitat; and (2) to examine the spatial separation hypothesis within caribou habitat, i.e. to assess whether caribou are able to spatially separate from moose, deer, and wolves within some areas of their range. Caribou populations continue to decline in Alberta. Most caribou mortalities are attributed to wolves; it is likely predator management will be required in and adjacent to caribou ranges. This study aims to aid in our understanding of wolf-prey dynamics in caribou habitat.