Multiscale Habitat Use by Wolverines in British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  Wolverine (Gulo gulo) distribution in British Columbia, Canada, includes multiple-use lands where human use and resource extraction may influence habitat selection. We evaluated seasonal habitat use by resident adult wolverines using radiotelemetry locations from 2 multiple-use landscapes in British Columbia. Food, predation risk, and human disturbance hypotheses were considered in logistic regression analyses of used and random landscapes. Male wolverine habitat associations were most supported by the food hypothesis in both summer and winter. Moose (Alces alces) winter ranges, valley bottom forests, and avalanche terrain were positively associated with winter male wolverine use. Habitat use by male wolverines in winter was also negatively associated with helicopter skiing areas in the Columbia Mountains. Habitat associations of females were more complex; combinations of variables supporting food, predation risk, or human disturbance hypotheses were included in most supported models from both summer and winter in both study areas. Females were associated with alpine and avalanche environments where hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) and Columbia ground squirrel (Spermophilus columbianus) prey are found in summer. Roaded and recently logged areas were negatively associated with female wolverines in summer. In the Columbia Mountains, where winter recreation was widespread, females were negatively associated with helicopter and backcountry skiing. Moose winter ranges within rugged landscapes were positively associated with females during winter. Our analysis suggests wolverines were negatively responding to human disturbance within occupied habitat. The population consequences of these functional habitat relationships will require additional focused research. Our spatially explicit models can be used to support conservation planning for resource extraction and tourism industries operating in landscapes occupied by wolverines.

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