Talk: “The Use of Anthropogenic Linear Features by Wolves in Northeastern Alberta” by Melanie Dickie

Boutin lab MSc candidate, Melanie Dickie is defending her thesis on May 28, beginning at 9 am in CCIS 1-243.  All are welcome to attend!


Predation by grey wolves (Canis lupus) has been identified as an important cause of boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) mortality. Wolves have been hypothesized to use human-created linear features such as seismic lines, pipelines and roads to increase ease of movement resulting in higher kill rates. I tested if wolves select linear features and if they increase movement rates while travelling on linear features in northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan using fine scale analyses with 5-minute GPS (Global Positioning System) locations from twenty-two wolves in 6 packs. In addition, I examined how the abundance and physical properties of linear features affects wolf selection of, and movement on, these features. Wolves selected all linear feature classes except for low-impact seismic lines in summer and trails in winter, with the magnitude of selection depending on season. In summer, compared to the surrounding forest, wolves travelled slower on low-impact seismic lines but 2 to 3 times faster on all other linear feature classes. In winter wolves travelled 2 to 3 times faster on conventional seismic lines, pipelines, roads and railways, but slower on low-impact seismic lines and transmission lines. In addition, increased average daily travelling speed while on linear features as well as increased proportion of steps spent travelling on linear features caused increased net daily movement rates, supporting that wolf use of linear features can increase their search distance. The selection of linear features by individual wolves was not related to linear feature density. In summer, linear features through uplands provided a greater increase in travelling speed relative to surrounding forest than wetlands, however this was opposite in winter. Furthermore, when on linear features, wolves selected and moved faster on linear features with shorter vegetation. Vegetation reaching a height beyond 1 m on linear features reduced movement by 23% in summer, whereas vegetation did not decrease travelling speed in winter until it exceeded 5 m. This knowledge can aid mitigation strategies by targeting specific features for reclamation and linear deactivation, such as conventional seismic lines and pipelines with vegetation regrowth less than 1 m, allowing for more effective use of conservation resources.

Melanie is supervised by Dr. Stan Boutin.

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