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: Shade grown coffee shrinking as a proportion of global coffee production

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

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

2 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

Ranchers benefit from long-term grazing data

4 hours ago

Scientists studying changes in the Earth's surface rely on 40 years of Landsat satellite imaging, but South Dakota ranchers making decisions about grazing their livestock can benefit from 70 years of data ...

Diverse gene pool critical for tigers' survival

5 hours ago

(Phys.org) —New research by Stanford scholars shows that increasing genetic diversity among the 3,000 or so tigers left on the planet is the key to their survival as a species.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.