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Human Activity Differentially Redistributes Large Mammals in the Canadian Rockies National Parks

James Kimo Rogala, Parks Canada; University of Calgary
Mark Hebblewhite, University of Montana
Jesse Whittington, Parks Canada
Cliff A. White, Parks Canada
Jenny Coleshill, University of Calgary
Marco Musiani, University of Calgary

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04251-160316

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Abstract

National parks are important for conservation of species such as wolves (Canis lupus) and elk (Cervus canadensis). However, topography, vegetation conditions, and anthropogenic infrastructure within parks may limit available habitat. Human activity on trails and roads may lead to indirect habitat loss, further limiting available habitat. Predators and prey may respond differentially to human activity, potentially disrupting ecological processes. However, research on such impacts to wildlife is incomplete, especially at fine spatial and temporal scales. Our research investigated the relationship between wolf and elk distribution and human activity using fine-scale Global Positioning System (GPS) wildlife telemetry locations and hourly human activity measures on trails and roads in Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks, Canada. We observed a complex interaction between the distance animals were located from trails and human activity level resulting in species adopting both mutual avoidance and differential response behaviors. In areas < 50 m from trails human activity led to a mutual avoidance response by both wolves and elk. In areas 50 - 400 m from trails low levels of human activity led to differential responses; wolves avoided these areas, whereas elk appeared to use these areas as a predation refugia. These differential impacts on elk and wolves may have important implications for trophic dynamics. As human activity increased above two people/hour, areas 50 - 400 m from trails were mutually avoided by both species, resulting in the indirect loss of important montane habitat. If park managers are concerned with human impacts on wolves and elk, or on these speciesí trophic interactions with other species, they can monitor locations near trails and roads and consider hourly changes of human activity levels in areas important to wildlife.

Key words

Banff National Park; conditional logistic regression; elk; human activity; resource selection; trails; wolves; Yellowstone National Park
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087