Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Year 3 - Effects of a Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic on Tweedsmuir-Entiako Caribou Habitat Use

Project Reference Number: 2009-05

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, prior to the initiation of this project in 2005/06, no information was available on the effects of MPB on caribou habitat use, making it difficult to develop management strategies that minimize impacts to caribou. From 2006/07 to 2008/09, this project has assessed the impacts of the MPB 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.

The short-term objective of this project for 2009/10 are:

  • to complete a final report that includes;
    • an analysis and summary of data collected during the 3 years of fieldwork (2006/07 to 2008-09);
    • a comparison of MPB (grey attack) habitat use / winter foraging (2006/07 to 2008-09) to pre MPB habitat use / winter foraging (1984-2003); and,
    • recommendations for management strategies;
  • to complete a final project summary for wider distribution;
  • to present results to the Northern Caribou Technical Advisory Committee, the Bulkley Valley Research Centre seminar series, and the next scheduled North American Caribou Workshop.

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