Effects of Progressive Clearcut Logging on Newfoundland Caribou



Abstract: Logging has often been implicated in the decline of caribou (Rangifer tarandus), but its effects are incompletely understood. We used a distance-based approach to assess the effects of progressive clearcut logging on the summer (28 May to 15 Sep) range of caribou in Newfoundland, Canada. We compared distances of random locations and of caribou, from 9 years of radiotelemetry, to landcover types across 3 spatial scales: population range, individual ranges, and radiolocations. We tested for incremental avoidance of cutovers and mature softwood forests, the preferred type for caribou and forest harvesting, while controlling for the confounding effects of each. At the individual range, females selected for hardwood and softwood forests, bogs, and barrens, and they avoided open water. Patterns for males were similar, although they avoided bogs and barrens at both scales. The sexes differed in their response to forest harvesting. Females progressively avoided cutovers, both pre- and postharvest, likely due to their spatial proximity. Females maintained an average of 9.2 km from active cutovers. Cutover avoidance was evident even if we controlled statistically for distances to other habitats, and it accounted for heightened disuse of softwood forests. Compared with females, males occurred in proximity, with no incremental response to clearcutting. These results imply deleterious effects of timber harvesting on female caribou. Long-term investigations will enhance our capacity to evaluate such anthropogenic habitat changes.