Winter habitat use by woodland aribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the Owl Lake region of Manitoba

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Martinez, Isabel M.
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Winter habitat use by woodland caribou belonging to the Owl Lake herd was researched. The Owl Lake herd is the most southerly occurring herd within Manitoba, and is comprised of an estimated 50-60 individuals. During 1995-1997, relocation data were obtained from eight woodland caribou (six females and two males) equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. Data were analyzed for the November through February use period. These location data were related to vegetation types obtained from detailed sampling of the habitat. Sites located in areas which had been affected by logging and road development, as well as undisturbed control sites, were examined. Results demonstrated that collared woodland caribou selected habitats consisting of jack pine 71-100% within cut classes 3 and 5. Vegetation data established that these intermediate to old-growth jack pine habitats were located in upland sites and were characterized by abundant arboreal and terrestrial lichens. Results further indicated that habitat alteration associated with linear developments was minimal. However, woodland caribou avoidance of quality winter habitat adjacent to operational roads suggests that disturbance issues may be significant for this species. Timber harvesting operations should exclude key habitat components demonstrated to be of importance to woodland caribou. Additional research is recommended, and it is proposed that research efforts be diversified.