How Caribou See the World: Scale, Structure and Habitat Selection
Caribou are one of the most influential animals in human prehistory and have long been held as a symbol of Newfoundland culture. I investigated the habitat selection of caribou, which are at risk in Canada, to gain insight into the factors limiting this species. Past studies of habitat selection have been limited because they have been conducted at single, arbitrary scales. But habitat selection is like hierarchy, where the distribution of a herd constrains, for example, the areas in which they feed, which in turn may be best explained by their diet. We investigate how caribou perceive and respond to thir habitat along a spectrum of scales from craters dug in the snow for food to the extent of their winter range. By mapping selected locations and using geostatistical analysis, we show that caribou make complex ecological decisions regarding how and where to live that sometimes appear to be contradictory. Although it is well known that caribou respond to lichen abundance (for food) and snow conditions (for travel, access to food), we explore the scales at which selection decisions are being made, for example, how large an area caribou are able to perceive and respond to, and which processes are occurring at those scales. By taking a caribous eye view of the landscape, this assessment of the spatial structure of habitat selection revealed that caribou perceived different components of their habitat at different scales, and that caribou responded to different habitat components more strongly than others.
01 Jan 2006
St. John's, NL
Wildlife Research and Management
Wilderness and Ecological Reserves
Strategic Research Theme
Environment, Energy and Natural Resources