Population dynamics of the endangered mountain ecotype of woodland caribou in British Columbia, Canada

Population dynamics of the endangered mountain ecotype of woodland caribou in British Columbia, Canada

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:01
Male Caribou on Fall Tundra

Male Caribou on Fall Tundra

Abstract: We used census results and radiotelemetry locations of >380 collared individuals sampled over the entire distribution of the endangered mountain ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou (Gmelin, 1788)) in British Columbia, Canada, to delineate population structure and document the size and trend of the identified populations. We also describe the spatial pattern of decline and the causes and timing of adult mortality and provide estimates of vital rates necessary to develop a population viability analysis. Our results indicate that the abundance of mountain caribou in British Columbia is declining. We found adult female annual survival rates below annual survival rates commonly reported for large ungulates. The major proximate cause of population decline appears to be predation on adult caribou. Spatial patterns of population dynamics revealed a continuous range contraction and an increasing fragmentation of mountain caribou into smaller, isolated subpopulations. The population fragmentation process predominantly occurs at the outer boundaries of the current distribution. Our results indicate that recovery strategies for mountain caribou should be directed at factors contributing to the fragmentation and isolation of mountain caribou populations as well as management strategies aimed at increasing adult survival

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