Founding Colonies of Arctic Ground Squirrels

Proponent

Jeffery Werner, PhD UBC Zoology

Contract

2015-16-7

Amount Awarded

$5,400

Final Report

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Reintroduction activities are part of a larger conservation program designed to bring populations of arctic ground squirrels back into the montane boreal ecosystem of the SW Yukon. The project also seeks to clarify why this herbivore disappeared from much of the ecosystem. Kluane First Nations chose the translocation sites and, in 2014, the first successful population was founded in historical habitat and on traditional hunting lands. Part of this proposal is to complete the assessment and monitoring of this new colony, while further enhancing the population.

Based on what we have learned about squirrel survival and movement (see final report submitted to YFWET) we wish to augment the population in the Duke meadow system. Renewed funding would be used to implement this last reintroduction, and to monitor the status of these new populations throughout the summer of 2015. Reintroductions are notoriously hard to predict or control and we are excited to be building upon the successes of last year, where we learned that vacant habitats may require an input of new individuals for these areas to be viewed as hospitable by wild dispersing animals. Our plans to found at least two colonies in close proximity will hopefully result in a greater proportion of released squirrels choosing to stay within the intended meadow systems. We are proposing to move a large number of animals into Duke meadows but, unlike last season, we will not be using radio telemetry to intensively monitor them. This will allow us to focus our efforts on moving more animals to support future first nation harvest.