Keeping track of the relationship between the distribution of wildlife species and human disturbance is necessary for effective conservation planning. Here, we considered the spatial relationship between disturbance and caribou behaviour (habitat use) via Utilization Distributions (UDs), and assessed the spatial overlap between caribou and disturbance features. We looked at the change in distribution of woodland caribou over time in relation to human disturbance, a baseline range defined from data collected between 1998 & 2005, alpine habitat, and inter-annual climate variations. While the human disturbance footprint increased during the study period, the overlap between caribou UDs and disturbance did not increase. Overall, climate was not a good predictor of the observed changes in caribou distribution over time although caribou use of alpine habitat during spring, fall, and late winter increased. Our research provides evidence that supports the hypothesis that caribou adjust their spatial distribution in response to human disturbances.
MacNearney D, KE Pigeon, G Stenhouse, W Nijland, NC Coops, L Finnegan (2016) Heading for the hills? Evaluating spatial distribution of woodland caribou in response to a growing anthropogenic disturbance footprint. Ecol Evol. 6: 6484 – 6509