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Regional or Local Number: 2007-952

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 74 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. 2007-952 is issued.

Scientific research for the conservation of the species

The Wolves, Caribou, Forestry and Roads in West-Central Alberta project is a regional-scale research project aimed at understanding how human development influences caribou across all the ranges of caribou in west-central Alberta, including Jasper National Park. Woodland caribou populations outside of Jasper National Park are declining rapidly in Alberta, and by comparing caribou population ecology inside and outside National Parks such as Jasper, we will be able to draw firm conclusions and make strong recommendations to ensure provincial caribou recovery. This will benefit Jasper National Park caribou populations by ensuring they are part of a viable meta-population of caribou. Our project has four major components: 1) Landscape genetics and population structure of west-central caribou populations; 2) To understand what are the empirical mechanisms for improved wolf predation efficiency in human dominated landscapes; 3) To understand the relationships between forage, primary prey, and caribou; 4) To answer how do caribou migratory patterns and spatial separation from wolves change over regional gradients in human development? These reseach questions address key research priorities of the Alberta Government Caribou Recovery Plan developed in consultation with Industry and Conservation partners. We will work with ongoing caribou recovery research in Jasper National Park (Local # 2007-972) to take advantage of data already being collected on population dynamics, caribou ecology, and predator-prey dynamics by pooling Jasper data with similar data for wolf-caribou dynamics over all 6 populations of woodland caribou in west-central Alberta.

Start Date: 2007-01-01   End Date: 2010-01-01

Issuing Authority: Parks Canada Agency

Authority Used:

  • Canada National Parks Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • Alberta

Affected Species:

A. The caribou population must be monitored to determine the effects of habitat fragmentation on distribution and movement in order to determine future recovery needs. We will work with existing radiocollared caribou and wolves collared as part of cooperating research (# 2006-973). Alternatives to GPS tracking have been considered and include using ground-tracking, but this technique will not provide sufficient data to meet the project objectives. Capturing and collaring the caribou is the only feasible monitoring method at this time. The use of chemical immobilization techniques from an aircraft was considered but after consultation with the Parks Canada veterinarian and the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre it was determined that net gunning by experienced personnel would be less likely to cause harm to woodland caribou than chemical immobilization. B. The capture of animals using net-guns does have potential negative side-effects, including stress and in very rare situations an animal can be mortally injured. However, we will follow an established protocol designed to reduce any risk of injury and have obtained approval from an animal care committee. The duration of the chase is limited to a maximum of 3 minutes and a short duration of the handling time will reduce the effects on the animals. Capture will not be scheduled until November when there should be sufficient snow on the ground to make capture safer for the caribou. Caribou run slower in significant snow and it provides a cushion for the animals during capture. C. The number of caribou to be captured each year is a small percentage of the population and any potential negative impacts will be so infrequent that they will not have population level effects. The benefits of this project to the recovery of the woodland caribou far outweigh the risks inherent to the research.

Contact Person(s)
Dr. Mark Hebblewhite
Assistant Professor
University of Montana
College of Forestry and Conservation Sciences
University of Montana
Missoula, MT
Tel: 406-243-6675
Fax: 406-243-4775

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