Friday, August 6, 2010 - 8:40 AM

OOS 53-3: The relationship between human use and wildlife use of backcountry trails: A remote camera study from the southern Rockies of Alberta, Canada

Michael Quinn and Danah Duke. Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, University of Calgary

Background/Question/Methods Off-highway motorized recreation is increasing across much of North America and is a common phenomenon along the Rocky Mountains. There has been relatively little quantitative research that focuses on the responses of wildlife to this activity. Land-use planning and management, including access management necessitates a closer examination of the relationships between human use of trails, with a particular emphasis on off highway vehicle (OHV) use, and wildlife movement. The Livingstone Range of SW Alberta comprises multiple-use public lands wherein a wide range of opportunities for unmanaged recreation activities is available. The area is ecologically critical in providing landscape connectivity for large mammals between the protected area complexes of Waterton/Glacier to the south and Kananaskis/Banff to the north. Our sampling methods include simultaneous monitoring of access roads, OHV trails and adjacent wildlife trails using remote, digital, infrared cameras (Reconyx).

Results/Conclusions Four summer field seasons have resulted in 1066, 14 day sampling periods including over 424,000 hours of camera operation. Preliminary results include over 6574 unique wildlife events, including 484 large carnivore detections. Detected wildlife species include grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, wolf, bobcat, lynx, wolverine, coyote, moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Cameras have detected 10473 human events on recreational trails with 9083 (86.7%) of these being motorized use. Initial results indicate patterns of spatial and temporal separation between human recreation and wildlife. The presentation will provide an examination of relationships between OHV and large mammals and explore human trail use and access thresholds with respect to habitat fragmentation. Management implications of the results include considerations for the maintenance and restoration of ecological connectivity while providing for appropriate levels of human use.