New study reduces threat level for caribou in Alberta's oilsands country

Jun 21, 2011

(Edmonton) A University of Alberta researcher has co-written an extensive study of the caribou population in the Fort McMurray oilsands region that show the animals' survival isn't as threatened as was perceived in the past. The study recommends efforts to manage human activity around resource development before resorting to the drastic measure of a wolf kill.

U of A statistical researcher Subhash Lele was part of the team that used specially trained dogs to find scat from caribou, moose and wolves in an area south of Fort McMurray. of animal scat gave the researchers a window into their genetics, health and diet. Included in the new diet information is the fact that wolves prefer to eat deer over caribou by a wide margin.

The researchers used resource selection statistics along with measurements of the animals' levels, derived from their scat samples, to show the effects of local resource development. The researchers found that it is not merely the presence of roads and cut lines, but the intensity of human activity, such as , that has the biggest effect on the animals.

Previous estimates of the caribou population in the area were largely based on professional opinion and estimates, but accurate visual counts were hindered by the thick cover. Those early surveys put the caribou population at between 90 and150. But this new study paints a different picture for the number of caribou in the McMurray oilsands region. of the scat, combined with the statistical capture-recapture methods, now puts the current number of caribou between of 209 and 389. The researchers say the population numbers for all animals in the study—caribou, moose and —remained steady during the four-year research program.

This study is unique in its use of different approaches: population estimation, habitat selection, diet and physiological understanding. The corroborative evidence suggests that wildlife management officials should first try to control the human activity in the area before focusing on a wolf kill as the solution.

The research will be published June 22 in the online edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Explore further: Like eating fish? It's time to start caring where it comes from

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mountain caribou's ancient ancestry revealed

Jan 28, 2009

The declining mountain caribou populations of Canada's southern Rockies are a more distinct breed than scientists previously believed, according to a new study by University of Calgary researchers that is ...

Alberta caribou at risk of extinction

Dec 22, 2005

Canadian environmentalists trying to prevent the extinction of Alberta's woodland caribou are asking the government to protect the remaining herds.

Alaska sues feds over predator control

May 29, 2010

(AP) -- The state of Alaska sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Friday, seeking a court order allowing it to go ahead with a controversial predator control program.

Recommended for you

Nestling birds struggle in noisy environments

22 hours ago

Unable to fly, nestling birds depend on their parents for both food and protection: vocal communication between parents and offspring helps young birds to determine when they should beg for food and when they should crouch ...

The secret life of the sea trout

Oct 29, 2014

Jan G. Davidsen and his graduate students are spies. They use listening stations and special tags they attach to their subjects to track their movements. They follow their subjects winter and summer, day ...

Giant tortoises gain a foothold on a Galapagos Island

Oct 28, 2014

A population of endangered giant tortoises, which once dwindled to just over a dozen, has recovered on the Galapagos island of EspaƱola, a finding described as "a true story of success and hope in conservation" ...

Fish "personality" linked to vulnerability to angling

Oct 28, 2014

Individual differences in moving activity in a novel environment are linked to individual differences in vulnerability to angling, according to an experimental study completed at the University of Eastern Finland and the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.