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Using Snow-track Surveys to Evaluate Wildlife Use of Forests Affected by Mountain Pine Beetle in North-central British Columbia

Snow-track survey sites The winter time use of pine forests affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB, Dendroctonus ponderosae) by wildlife within the Defined Forest Area of the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area in north-central British Columbia were assessed using wildlife snow-track surveys during the winter of 2010. The snow track surveys were completed in partnership with the Tsay Keh Dene and Kwadacha First Nations during two sessions: January 15th to 24th and February 14th to 23rd. Transects were surveyed within moose ( Alces alces) and woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Ungulate Winter Ranges (UWR) in close proximity to the communities of Tsay Keh and Kwadacha in north-central British Columbia.

We hypothesized that there would be a significant difference in species use between caribou UWR and moose UWR. The level of species use was defined as the number of tracks observed per day, per 100 meters of transect (NT/D100m). Analysis determined that the factors of session and strata (UWR types) were not significant in determining the amount of tracks observed. The factors of study area and wildlife species were significant, and shared no discernable interaction.

Tracks of the following species were observed: red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), marten (Martes americana), fisher (Martes pennanti), lynx (Lynx canadensis), ermine (Mustela erminea), least weasel (Mustela nivalis), wolf (Canis lupus), wolverine (Gulu gulo), deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), spruce grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), rocky mountain elk (Cervus elaphus), caribou, and moose. Red squirrel and snowshoe hare tracks were observed at higher rates than the other species. Tracks of deer mice, fisher, lynx, ermine and weasel were observed at lower rates than all the other species.

It is our hope to continue and expand the snow-track project for the winter of 2010-2011. The project represents a unique opportunity to combine traditional snow-tracking knowledge with science to effectively monitor the effects of ecosystem change on local wildlife resources as the level of MPB attack progresses.


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