Characterizing Caribou Use of Burned Areas in West-Central Yukon

Proponent

Kelsey Russell

Contract

2015-16-11

Amount Awarded

$15,500

Final Report

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This project is a continuance of graduate research that began in May 2014. The research focuses on the Klaza caribou herd located in west-central Yukon (northwest of Carmacks); a part of the Northern Mountain Population of woodland caribou, and listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Special Concern. The focus of this research is on the relationship between woodland caribou and fire, particularly how and why caribou use burned areas. The objective is to determine how forest fire contributes to the cumulative effects on caribou habitat by examining caribou use of burns and characterizing the attributes of burns of differing ages. This can be achieved by developing an improved approach and understanding that can be used by wildlife managers and development proponents alike to quantify caribou forage availability within a burn of a certain age, which could subsequently be used to assess caribou winter habitat availability within a herd’s range and in relation to proposed resource development. Also, by examining caribou habitat use and movement patterns in relation to burns, we may be able to identify circumstances when some individuals are not averse to burns. The success of this project will be evaluated based on the ability to a) develop meaningful conclusions about lichen recovery after fire, caribou habitat use, and movement in relation to burns, and b) effectively communicate and discuss these results to caribou managers, conservationists, development proponents, and stakeholders alike.