Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Year 2 - Effects of a Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic on Tweedsmuir-Entiako Caribou Habitat Use

Project Reference Number: 2008-16

Project Status: Complete

Led by: Deborah Cichowski, Caribou Ecological Consulting, Smithers

Funder: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

Project Proposal

The Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou population is the first Northern Caribou population to experience the recent mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic. During winter, caribou select mature lodgepole pine forests where terrestrial lichens are abundant, and forage primarily by cratering through the snow to obtain terrestrial lichens (Cichowski 1993). COSEWIC recently listed all caribou in the Southern Mountains National Ecological Area (SMNEA), which includes the Tweedsmuir-Entiako population, as Threatened. The Recovery Strategy for Northern Caribou in the SMNEA in BC identifies research on the effects of MPB on Northern Caribou as a priority (NCTAC 2005). Since this scale of MPB attack has been unprecedented on caribou ranges in recent history, there is no information available on the effects of MPB on caribou habitat use, making it difficult to develop management prescriptions that minimize impacts to caribou. This project assesses the impacts of the MPB epidemic on Northern Caribou habitat use and winter foraging habits during the grey attack phase of the epidemic, using radio-collared caribou and winter snow tracking. Although there is no hunting season for the Tweedsmuir-Entiako population, all Northern Caribou populations in BC and Alberta, including hunted populations in northern BC and in the Itcha-Ilgachuz area are at risk of experiencing the MPB epidemic due to climate change and a northerly expansion of MPB distribution. Not conducting this project will result in the loss of the first opportunity to collect information on the response of caribou to a MPB epidemic and to develop management strategies to deal with this issue.

The short-term objective of this project for 2008/09 is to assess the effects of the current mountain pine beetle epidemic during the grey-attack phase on Northern Caribou in the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou population by using radio-collared caribou and conducting:

  • monthly radio-telemetry flights;
  • 4 winter site investigations (snow tracking);
  • 3 calf survival surveys (June, October, March); and,
  • mortality investigations as required.

Related Reports

Publication Date Report Title Authors
May 2010 Tweedsmuir-Entiako Caribou Project: Effects of a Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic on Northern Caribou Habitat Use - Extension Note #9 Deborah Cichowski
April 2010 Final Report - Tweedsmuir-Entiako Caribou Project: Effects of a Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic on Northern Caribou Habitat Use Deborah Cichowski
April 2008 Tweedsmuir-Entiako Caribou Project - Effects of Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic on Northern Caribou Habitat Use - Annual Report - 2007/08 Deborah Cichowski