Mammals Affected by Recreation


Badger

Badger

Carnivores exhibit a wide variety of responses to recreational activities, ranging from being highly sensitive to human disturbance (e.g., Grizzly Bears) to being well adapted to the presence of humans and human activities (e.g., Skunks and Coyotes).Claar et al. provide a recent, comprehensive survey of recreational impacts on carnivores. Although their report focuses on Montana much of their information and many of their recommendations apply to B.C.

Badgers are Red-listed predators found in open areas and brushlands where they hunt fossorial (burrowing) prey such as Ground Squirrels and Pocket Gophers. Badgers are at risk because the area of suitable habitat in B.C. is small, and much of that habitat has already been greatly modified by human activity. The dry regions of the southern Interior and the east Kootenay provide the habitat that Badgers prefer: grasslands and open pine or fir forests.

Principal sources of information:

Carnivores. J.J. Claar, N. Anderson, D. Boyd, et al. 1999. Pp. 7.1–7.63 In Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A review for Montana, edited by G. Joslin and H. Youmans. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society. 

Rare amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of British Columbia. 1999. S.G. Cannings, L.R. Ramsay, D.F. Fraser, and M.A. Fraker. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, B.C.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

 

Bats (Red- and Blue-listed Species)

Bat

British Columbia is home to 16 species of bats. Most are migratory, arriving in the province in spring and leaving in the fall; exact timing of these seasonal movements varies with species and location within the province. It is during their period of residency that concern exists regarding impacts of backcountry recreation.

While migratory bats are in B.C., their principal activity is birthing and raising offspring. The concern is for the sites used by bats to give birth and raise young (maternity colonies), and the sites used by bats for daytime roosts.

A few species of bats are year-round residents, and thus the concern about roosting and den sites exists throughout the year. Hibernation is a critical period in the life cycle of bats, a time they typically lose 20 to 40% of their body weight and severely deplete their reserves of body fat. During this time, bats are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance in the caves, mines, buildings, tree cavities, tree bark, and rock crevices they use as winter hibernacula. Caving activity, particularly in winter, can severely affect bat hibernacula. A bat disturbed during hibernation uses up valuable fat reserves prematurely, with the result that it may later die of starvation. The sensitivity of bats to human disturbance at roost sites is well established.

Principal sources of information:

Bats and Forests Symposium, October 19–21, 1995. By R.M.R. Barclay and R.M. Brigham. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria Working Paper 23/1996.

The Bats of British Columbia (Vol. 1). 1993. D.W. Nagorsen and R.W. Brigham. Royal B.C. Museum and UBC Press, Vancouver.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-28.htm

 

Bison

Bison

Bison react to humans on foot more quickly than to humans on mechanized vehicles such as snowmobiles. In winter, Bison use groomed snowmobile trails as travel routes, and the level of use increases with increasing snow depth. Snowmobilers may cause Bison to flee when encountered. Aune’s study in Yellowstone Park discovered that heavy human activity within 58 meters of trails might temporarily displace wildlife. However, Bison do not appear to use groomed ski trails to the same extent as they use snowmobile trails.

Principal sources of information:

Effects of winter recreation on wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Area: A literature review and assessment. 1999. T. Olliff, K. Legg, and B. Kaeding. Report to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, Yellowstone National Park WY.

Impact of winter recreationists on wildlife in a portion of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. 1981. K.E. Aune. M.Sc. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

 

Caribou (Mountain Ecotype Red-listed)

Caribou

All caribou in British Columbia belong to the woodland subspecies (Rangifer tarandus caribou), but can be further divided into three ecotypes based on differences in habitat use, behaviour and migration patterns:

  • Mountain ecotype caribou live in southeastern B.C. They are characterized by their use of high elevation habitat in late winter where they forage almost exclusively on arboreal lichens.
  • Northern ecotype caribou lives in west-central and northern B.C. During winter, these caribou use low elevation forests or windswept alpine ridges where they crater for terrestrial lichens. They also feed on arboreal lichens during winter but to a lesser extent.
  • Boreal ecotype caribou resides in the lowlands of northeastern B.C where animals are dispersed in scattered, relatively sedentary groups.

Concerns related to the potential effects of recreation are greatest for the red-listed Mountain Caribou; however, increasing road access in other parts of B.C. and the potential for more backcountry use is a concern among caribou biologists. The Mountain Caribou Science Team (2005) summarized the risk of disturbance related to recreation:

Disturbance by human-related activities affects both short-term behaviour of Caribou and longer-term habitat use. Studies have demonstrated that Caribou populations in other parts of Canada and Scandinavia spend less time foraging in the presence of winter ecotourism operations; however, Caribou appear to acclimate to the presence of humans as the season progresses (Duchesne et al. 2000).

While the short-term behavioural effects might be minimal, biologists are more concerned about longer-term consequences, such as displacement from preferred habitat caused by increasing backcountry activity and development, snowmobiling, skiing and commercial backcountry recreation and resource use.

A study of reindeer in Norway found that areas within 5 km of resorts or from roads and power lines in combination were avoided, and that maternal reindeer avoided areas up to 10 km from resorts (Nellemann et al. 2001). Although data are limited, there is considerable concern regarding the effects of increasing use of snowmobiles in mountain Caribou habitat (Kinley 2003). The proliferation of roads in high elevation forests, improvements in the technology of snowmobiles, as well as a recent surge in the popularity of the sport, have led to extensive snowmobiling activity in some key areas of mountain caribou habitat. There are reliable but anecdotal reports that Mountain Caribou use of these areas has declined as snowmobiling activity has increased. A study of commercial heli-skiing activity within Mountain Caribou range in the West Kootenay found evidence that Caribou use of areas was lower during months and years when heli-skiing activity was highest ( Wilson and Hamilton 2003). Alpine ski developments in Caribou habitat create very high levels of use that are assumed to displace Mountain Caribou. Researchers have observed Caribou being displaced from range by snowmobiles, and lower use of some areas by Caribou has been documented where snowmobile activity has increased in recent years (Kinley, unpublished). Displacement is hypothesized to force Caribou into poorer habitat, which could be associated with more abundant predators, poorer forage quality, or a higher risk of accidents.

Principal sources of information:

Cumulative effects of habitat change and backcountry recreation on mountain caribou in the Central Selkirk Mountains. 2003. Wilson, S. F., and D. Hamilton. Prepared for: B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, Nelson, Canadian Mountain Holidays, Banff, AB, and Pope & Talbot Ltd., Nakusp, BC.

Cumulative impacts of tourist resorts on wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) during winter. Nellemann, C., P. Jordhøy, O. G. Støen, and O. Strand. 2001. Arctic 53:9-17.>

Impacts of backcountry recreation activities on Mountain Caribou: management concerns, interim management guidelines and research needs. 2000. K. Simpson and E. Terry. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks,Victoria B.C. Wildlife Working Report 99. Available at http://wwwd.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/techpub/wr99.pdf

Mountain Caribou in managed forests: Preliminary recommendations for managers. 1994. S.K. Stevenson, H.M. Armleder, M.J. Jull, et al. B.C. Ministry of Forests, Victoria, BC. Available at: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/pubs/Docs/Mr/Mr030.htm

Mountain caribou situation analysis. 2005. Mountain Caribou Science Team. Species at Risk Coordination Office, Integrated Land Management Bureau, B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Victoria.

Mountain Caribou in managed forests: Recommendations for Managers. Second Edition. 2001. S.K. Stevenson, H.M. Armleder, M.J. Jull, et al. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC. Wildlife Report No. R-26. Available at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/techpub/r26_mtcaribou.pdf

Responses of woodland caribou to winter ecotourism in the Charlevoix Biosphere  Reserve, Canada. 2000. Duchesne, M., S. D. Côté, and C. Barrette. Biological Conservation 96:311-317.

Snowmobile-mountain caribou interactions: a summary of perceptions and an analysis of trends in caribou distribution. 2003. Kinley, T. Prepared for: B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, BC.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

 

Fisher (Blue-listed)

In their review of Fisher, Claar et al. (1999) noted that the direct effects of recreational activities on this species have not been systematically examined. However, the literature suggests that Fishers are adaptable to human activity, except, perhaps, females with kits. Possible indirect effects include loss, degradation, or fragmentation of prime habitats and displacement as a result of increased human access.

Principal sources of information:

Carnivores. 1999. J.J. Claar, N. Anderson, D. Boyd, et al. Pp. 7.1– 7.63 InEffects of recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A review for Montana, edited by G. Joslin and H. Youmans. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

Effects of winter recreation on wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Area: a literature review and assessment. 1999. T. Olliff, K. Legg, and B. Kaeding. Report to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-31.htm

 

Gray Wolf

Wolf

A study of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains noted that wolves tended to avoid human settlements, exhibit slight aversion within about 1 km of open roads, and readily used gated and unplowed roads. In Alaska, radio-collared wolves avoided accessible roads but were attracted to gated and gravel roads that received little use. Other studies found that wolves avoided exploiting their prey near clusters of human habitation and development, especially in narrow river valleys.

The same study noted that wolves are sensitive to human disturbance near active den sites from mid-April to July, but provided no evidence to support this statement. Beyond the problem of disturbance and displacement, domestic dogs also present a significant risk through the transmission of infectious diseases and parasites to wolves.

Principal sources of information:

Carnivores. J.J. Claar, N. Anderson, D. Boyd, et al. 1999. Pp. 7.1– 7.63 In Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A review for Montana, edited by G. Joslin and H. Youmans. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

Effects of winter recreation on wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Area: a literature review and assessment. 1999. T. Olliff, K. Legg, and B. Kaeding. Report to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Resilience and conservation of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains. 1996. J.L. Weaver, P.C. Paquet, and L.F. Ruggiero. Conservation Biology 10(4):964– 976.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

 

Grizzly Bear (Blue-listed)

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are BLUE-listed and classed as VULNERABLE in B.C. by COSEWIC. They are considered threatened where they still occur in the Southern Interior part of the province. In addition, four cross-border populations are classed as THREATENED under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the North Cascades, Selkirks, Cabinet-Yaak and Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Ecosystems.

Local population declines are occurring in many areas of the province, due primarily to area concentrated mortality, habitat loss and fragmentation. Sources of area-concentrated mortality include hunting, poaching for gall bladders and other body parts, and inadequate garbage management. These activities are associated with increased access stemming from forestry, mining, and oil and gas development, and represent a particularly significant threat when adult females are taken. Habitat loss and fragmentation occur on a broad scale as a result of forestry and fire suppression, and expanding human settlement. The latter, with its associated developments (agriculture, recreation, roads, hydro reservoirs and utility corridors) is concentrated in valley bottoms formerly used as spring habitats and movement corridors between mountain ranges; human population increase represents the greatest threat to grizzly bears in B.C.

Principal sources of information:

Grizzly Bears in British Columbia. 2002. D.A. Blood. B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Victoria, B.C. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/grzzlybear.pdf

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-32.htm

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Lynx

Lynx

Studies are lacking on the impacts of backcountry recreational activities on Lynx. However, it is not likely that these activities will cause direct mortality of Lynx, but they may indirectly affect natality and survival. Recreational activities and their associated infrastructure could potentially affect the suitability of habitat available to Lynx. Lynx may reduce use of otherwise suitable habitat because of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells associated with human activities.

Motorized activities such as snowmobiling may affect lynx as this activity occurs at a time when animals are often in poorer condition. Non-motorized recreational activities could have some effect on lynx as a result of unpredictable encounters.

It is believed that the above mentioned potential impacts would also be limited as a result of lynx distribution and abundance and relatively low probability of encounters.

Principal sources of information:

Carnivores. J.J. Claar, N. Anderson, D. Boyd, et al. 1999. Pp. 7.1–7.63 In Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A review for Montana, edited by G. Joslin and H. Youmans. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

Effects of winter recreation on wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Area: A literature review and assessment. 1999. T. Olliff, K. Legg, and B. Kaeding. Report to the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee, Yellowstone National Park.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

 

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

Of all the ungulate species, Mountain Goats appear the most sensitive to disturbance, especially by helicopters (Wilson and Shackleton 2001). In the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Mountain Goats moved in response to helicopters from an approach of at least up to 1.5 km (Penner 1988). In northern British Columbia, a study suggested that goats required a buffer area of 2 km to completely avoid disturbance (Foster and Rahs 1983). Cote (1996) also recommended that helicopters maintain a minimum of 2 km horizontal distance to avoid disturbance to Mountain Goats.

Principal sources of information:

A study of canyon-dwelling Mountain Goats in relation to a proposed hydroelectric development in northwest, Canada. 1983. B.R. Foster and E.Y. Rahs. Biological Conservation33:209–228.

Backcountry recreation and Mountain Goats. 2001. S.F. Wilson and D.M. Shackleton. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria. Wildlife Bulletin B-103. Available at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/techpub/b103.pdf

Behavioural response and habituation of Mountain Goats in relation to petroleum exploration at Pinto Creek, Alberta. 1988. D.F. Penner. Biennial Symposium of the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council 6:141–158.

Human disturbance of Mountain Goats and related ungulates: a literature-based analysis with applications to Goatherd Mountain. 1997. A. Frid. Unpublished report, Kluane National Park Reserve, Haines Junction, YK.

Mountain Goat responses to helicopter disturbance. 1996. S.D. Cote. Wildlife Society Bulletin24:681–685.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-36.htm

 

Rodents: Red and Blue-listed Species

Squirel

Red- and Blue-listed rodents include 16 species and subspecies of mammals. Most are small, such as chipmunks, voles, lemmings, and mice, and they occupy a wide range of habitats from sea level to alpine and from shrub-steppe to evergreen forests. It is difficult generalize about the impacts of backcountry recreation for such a diverse group of animals, so the appropriate course of action is to first identify which species likely occur in the area of activity. The next logical step is to determine the critical needs of those species present, and then develop specific guidelines to minimize or prevent impacts.

Notwithstanding the need for a site- and species-specific approach, Hickman, in his paper “Small mammals,” offers some useful general considerations:

  • In alpine habitats, small rodents can be affected by even minor levels of human use due to the ecological sensitivity of these high-elevation ecosystems. Local extinctions can be serious because alpine species are often isolated from each other, given the discontinuous distribution of alpine areas especially in the southern half of the province.

  • In bog habitats, snowmobiles and other off-highway vehicles (OHVs) can damage bog vegetation that could degrade habitats for some species. Trails and roads that divert or modify drainage also can seriously degrade bog habitats.
  • Snow cover is important to the winter survival of many rodents and snow compaction by snowmobiles can markedly increase the mortality of some small mammals.

Principal sources of information:

Rare amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of British Columbia. 1999. S.G. Cannings, L.R. Ramsay, D.F. Fraser, and M.A. Fraker. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.

Small mammals. 1999. G.R. Hickman, B.G. Dixon, and J. Corn. Pp. 4.1–4.16 In Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: A review for Montana, edited by G. Joslin and H. Youmans. Committee on Effects of Recreation on Wildlife, Montana Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-29.htm

 

Bighorn Sheep (California and Rocky Mountain) and Thinhorn Sheep (Dall’s and Stone’s)

Bighorn Sheep

Wild sheep are likely more sensitive to human activities than forest dwelling ungulates, as might be expected from a species living in open habitats. In addition to habitat needs generally described for hoofed mammals, wild sheep have additional needs for steep cliffs which serve as escape terrain and as safe places for lambing. Recreational activities should not prevent wild sheep from accessing escape terrain or increase time spent in these areas. Operators need to be familiar with such sites in the tenured areas

Human activities that might stress Mountain Sheep include human intrusion, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and all-terrain vehicles (Canfield et al. 1999). While occasional exposure to these activities likely has minimal effect, chronic exposure could have longer-term effects.

Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft activity is the most often cited source of possible disturbance. Frid (2002) found that Dall Sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) located > 20 m from escape terrain always fled when helicopters approached <2000 m. Horejsi (1976) found that Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) in Alberta reacted “explosively” to helicopters, often fleeing when the helicopter was 1.6 km away. In contrast, Stockwell et al. (1991) found that Desert Bighorn Sheep (O. c. nelsoni) subjected to 15,000-42,000 sight-seeing flights per year in Grand Canyon National Park did not flee when helicopters approached within 250 m; however, they reduced their foraging activities when helicopters were nearby (43% reduction in spring).

Bleich et al. (1994) found that Bighorn Sheep in California responded “ dramatically” to helicopter surveys; however, surveys were conducted at 100 m altitude. MacArthur et al. (1982) reported that helicopter overflights at 90-250 m above ground resulted in fleeing behaviour and elevated heart rates that lasted for 20-65 seconds. In contrast, Stemp (1983) found that cardiac responses of Bighorn Sheep to helicopters lasted for up to 1 hour post disturbance. Both MacArthur et al. (1982) and Stemp (1983) noted cardiac responses persisted even when sheep appeared to exhibit behaviour consistent with habituation.

Principal sources of information:

A review of the potential effects of winter recreation on Bighorn Sheep. 1998. K.L. Legg. Biennial Symposium of the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council 11:14-19.

Behaviour. 1978. V. Geist. Pp. 283–296 In Big Game of North America: Ecology and Management. Edited by J.L. Schmidt and D.L. Gilbert. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA.

Cardiac and behavioral responses of mountain sheep to human disturbance. 1982. MacArthur, R. A., V. Geist, and R. H. Johnston. Journal of Wildlife Management 46:351-358.

Conflicts in national parks: a case study of helicopters and bighorn sheep time budgets at the Grand Canyon. 1991. Stockwell, C. A., G. C. Bateman, and J. Berger. Biological Conservation 56:317-328.

Dall's sheep responses to overflights by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. 2002.Frid, A. Biological Conservation 110:387-399.

Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. Chapter 6 ungulates. 1999. Canfield, J. E., L. J. Lyon, J. M. Hillis, and M. J. Thompson. Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Heart rate responses of bighorn sheep to environmental factors and harassment. 1983. Stemp, R. E. M.Sc. thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Mountain Sheep (Ovis canadensis) helicopter surveys: ramifications for the conservation of large mammals. 1994. V.C. Bleich, R.T. Bowyer, A.M. Pauli, M.C. Nicholson, and R.W. Anthes. Biological Conservation 70:1–7.

Mountain Sheep responses to aerial surveys. 1983. P.R. Krausman and J.J. Hervert. Wildlife Society Bulletin 11:372-375.

Some thoughts on harassment and bighorn sheep. 1976. Horejsi, B. Biennial Symposium of the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council 1:149-155.

Stone’s Sheep of the northern Rockies: the effects of access. 1999. M.M. Paquet and R.A. Demarchi. The Foundation of North American Wild Sheep, Cody, WY, and Guide-Outfitters Association of B.C., Richmond, BC.

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html

For (1997 data) species distribution and map, see:
http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/tasb/legsregs/fpc/fpcguide/other/species/species-33.htm

 

Ungulate (Winter Range)

Most of the concern about the effects of recreational activities on hoofed mammals is for the winter season, because animals are most vulnerable to adverse impacts at that time. During this season, ungulates are:

  • Concentrated into smaller areas than at other times of the year, so that any adverse activity or event is more likely to affect more individuals than at other seasons when they are more dispersed.

  • In poorer physical condition because of nutritionally inadequate forage, and so are less able to cope with extra stresses and disturbances, both natural and human-caused.
  • Less able to disperse within their winter range because deep snow restricts or prevents their movements.
  • Very limited in their choices of alternative habitats because deep snow and other physical factors preclude access to them.

The above conditions and factors apply to the entire winter season. However, toward late winter, the condition of wintering ungulates, suffering from increased energetic demands and decreased energy intake, will progressively deteriorate until they can be quite debilitated. The loss of condition and the resulting levels of overwintering mortality vary according to the severity and duration of the difficult conditions. In a severe winter on poor range, displacement of animals from even a small segment of their range may hurt the larger population.

Another critical season is the post-winter or early spring period. At this time, ungulates are at the lowest point in their annual cycle, and access to nutritious new forage is essential if individuals are to regain physical condition. Most adult females are in the last stages of pregnancy and preparing for birth and lactation. Energy demands are especially heavy, and nutritious forage is essential for their recovery, and for the successful birthing and rearing of newborns. Lactation is the most energy-demanding time of the annual cycle for females.

If ungulates are exposed to excessive stresses over the winter, the effects are rarely observed immediately, for example, by the death of individuals. More typically, animals move away from a stress, such as winter recreationists, and nothing more seems to happen. Of course, responses vary according to many factors such as type of activity, its proximity, its duration, and its frequency, but it is the cumulative incremental effects of these seemingly innocuous events that are of greatest concerns. Consequences of these impacts are often subtle, subclinical and delayed. They can occur in late winter/early spring or during lactation – chronic stress can impair immune responses, animals lose weight and die of malnutrition, others are less able to escape predators or withstand disease, females abort fetuses, or newborns fail to thrive because of an inadequate milk supply or interrupted maternal care.

By their very nature, these types of cumulative impacts are difficult to document. Studies of ungulate response to recreational activities commonly measure behavioural changes, such as movements by animals when exposed to different activities at varying distances. The energy costs of these responses can be determined by extrapolating from studies of ungulate locomotion. Other studies have used heart rate to monitor ungulate responses because there is a strong correlation between heart rate and metabolic costs.

Another consideration is that only limited areas are available that meet the habitat requirements of ungulates for winter range. Although each species has its own requirements for winter habitat, in most cases winter range is limiting. Consequently, recreational activities that reduce the physical extent of winter habitat place an additional demand on animals.

The objective of commercial recreation guidelines for ungulates on their winter ranges is to minimize stress and other adverse effects due to human activities. The aim is to design and plan commercial recreation facilities and operations to minimize impacts on ungulates on their winter range.

For additional information, visit the Ministry of Environment ungulate winter range web site.

 

Wolverine (Blue-listed)

Wolverine

Wolverines occupy large home ranges, and are therefore likely to intersect winter recreational activities of many kinds. Winter is the critical period for Wolverine and other carnivores, and winter recreational activities can potentially affect them in several ways. Their foraging behaviour along groomed trails and other travel corridors may be disrupted, or they may retreat from the sound of snowmobiles or human presence. Wolverines seem to avoid human settlements. In the northern Columbia Mountains of B.C., national parks and unroaded wilderness areas receive high Wolverine use, but pressures from commercial backcountry activities, snowmobiling, and logging may jeopardize the ability of these high-use areas to act as refugia for Wolverine populations

In late winter (February 15 to April 30),reproductive females establish natal dens in areas with little or no human disturbance, in non-forested habitats (avalanche debris or large blocky talus) of upper-elevation forested zones (e.g., Englemann Spruce-Subalpine Fir biogeoclimatic zone). These natal dens are often in the same subalpine cirques that snowmobilers seek. Females with kits are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance and will abandon den sites if disturbed.

Principal sources of information:

Rare amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of British Columbia. 1999. S.G. Cannings, L.R. Ramsay, D.F. Fraser, and M.A. Fraker. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.

Resilience and conservation of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains. 1996. J.L. Weaver, P.C. Paquet, and L.F. Ruggiero. Conservation Biology 10(4):964–976.

Wolverine ecology and habitat use in the North Columbia Mountains: Progress report. 2000. J.A. Krebs and D. Lewis. In Proceedings of a Conference on the Biology and Management of Species and Habitats at Risk (Vol. 2, pp. 695–703), edited by L.M. Darling. B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/ca08krebs.pdf

For current information on the species, including species conservation status, distribution, and reports and references, see BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/atrisk/toolintro.html