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Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Program

Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2012

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

predator-prey, calving grounds, Ursus americanus, Rangifer tarandus, calf mortality, logistic regression

Abstract

The population trajectory of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Newfoundland is currently determined by low calf survival due to high predation rates during the first 6-8 weeks after parturition. Most caribou in Newfoundland congregate and give birth in open calving grounds; consequently, in order to investigate predator-prey interactions, design research, and develop mitigation strategies, the geographic extent of the caribou calving grounds must be properly identified. We used VHF telemetry locations of caribou calves, collected from 2003-2010, to determine the spatial and temporal extent of caribou calving grounds in three study areas in Newfoundland.

We put GPS collars on 47 black bears (Ursus americanus) in 3 caribou ranges where bears are having a significant impact on caribou recruitment by preying on calves during the calving season. Bear movements were greatest during the calving season, potentially increasing encounters with calves. Some bears migrated to the calving grounds just prior to caribou parturition, indicating deliberate broad-scale selection of areas of high calf density. Bears displayed interannual fidelity to calving ground usage patterns during the calving season, with some bears using the calving grounds every year, while others did not. We estimated the probability of a bear spending time in the calving grounds during the calving season as a function of the bear’s sex and mean distance to the calving grounds with logistic regression. We found that as distance increased, the odds of a bear spending time in the calving grounds decreased, and that at any given distance the odds were greater for male bears than for female bears. Our results indicate that some bears in Newfoundland are likely caribou calf predators, while others are not, and that the sex and broad-scale distribution of bears influenced the probability of a bear participating in calf predation during the calving season. The probability distribution of calf-visiting bears could be used to develop management practices to mitigate the impact of bear predation on declining caribou herds in Newfoundland.

First Advisor

Todd K Fuller

Second Advisor

John F. Organ

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