Seasonal movement patterns of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)


All correspondence to: S. H. Ferguson. E-mail:


For species conservation, defining seasons according to an animal's perception and consideration of seasonal differences in its use of space is required. First, a statistical approach was used to determine seasons based on rates of movement of radio-collared caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou. Using polynomial regression, five seasons were delineated by inflection points that demarcate changes in rates of movement. Male and female caribou did not differ in timing and number of seasons. Second, the seasons so defined were used to describe the use of space in 33 caribou in north-western Ontario, Canada. Greatest rates of movement occurred during spring and early winter migration when caribou had both the largest range size and largest distance between seasonal ranges. The general direction of movement was west in spring and east early in winter, although variation occurred among caribou and years. A drop in rate of movement lasting about 3 days may indicate calving. Caribou were most dispersed and occupied the smallest seasonal range during the calving season. The animals showed strong fidelity to calving areas in contrast to the highly variable year-to-year location of winter ranges. Understanding the seasons of animal movement patterns, and applying this understanding when developing plans for forest management, may help reduce adverse effects of forest harvesting on highly mobile animals such as woodland caribou.