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Factors influencing variation in site fidelity of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in southeastern British Columbia

Factors influencing variation in site fidelity of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in southeastern British Columbia

Canadian Journal of Zoology 84(4): 7-45

Where predation is a major limiting factor, it has been postulated that woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou (Gmelin, 1788)) reduce movements to minimize contact with predators and exhibit fidelity to seasonal ranges. We examined fidelity behaviour within season and among years of woodland caribou based on locations of 65 radio-collared individuals in British Columbia, Canada. We used average linear distances between all possible pairs of radiolocations of individuals to assess fidelity. Among-year interlocation distances were similar to within-season interlocation distances during summer, indicating that caribou did not shift their distribution during seasons when they were most vulnerable to predation. Among-year interlocation distances were significantly greater than within-season interlocation distances during both early winter and late winter, indicating that individual caribou shifted their distribution among winters. The amount that an individual's distribution shifted among winters varied among and within individuals over different years. During early winter this behavioural plasticity was correlated with snow accumulation, with individuals having greater interlocation distances in years with high snow accumulation. Our results indicate that site fidelity outside the calving season is unlikely solely influenced by predator avoidance. We suggest that seasonal shifts in the importance of limiting factors vary from predation in summer to food in winter.

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Accession: 017901194

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

DOI: 10.1139/z06-026

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