Logging roads, pipelines, and clearings that make trails through the forests make it too easy for wolves to hunt caribou, according to a UBC Okanagan student.
Ph.D. candidate Melanie Dickie has published a new paper studying the impact humans have on predator and prey relationships.
“We have accidentally made it really easy for wolves to move around,” says Dickie.
She studied how wolves use clearings created by humans to travel and hunt animals like caribou.
Her research analyzed wolf habitats and how far the canines travel on a regular basis.
“When food is abundant and easy to find wolves travel less and stay close to home, allowing more wolves to fit in the area,” says Dickie. Caribou populations dwindle when wolves capitalize on the human-made clearings, she says.
Logging and oil and gas industries have directly impacted animal populations by creating “highways” for predators, like wolves, to use. The process of mining and logging creates clearings and trails through the forest which make it easy for wolves to catch caribou.
Unfortunately, we really have to worry about caribou, says Dickie. She says many caribou herds have now disappeared from the Southern Okanagan region and surrounding area, due in part to how humans have changed the landscape making it easier for wolves to hunt.
To conserve caribou populations Dickie says that it is necessary to restore disturbed habitats.
She explains that one of the areas that requires urgent restoration is the forest around Revelstoke, in the Columbia North Region.
Restoration involves replanting native plant species and ensuring that there are no large pathways or leftover logging or mining roads, particularly ones that aren’t being used anymore, that wolves could easily travel and use as a “highway” to hunt caribou.
For more information, follow @MelanieDickie on twitter or read her paper, published in Ecology, in the Ecological Society of America.