Identifying conservation corridors and transboundary linkages for wolverines in the Canadian Crown of the Continent ecosystems geography– Southern Canadian Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia
Duration – 2014 to 2016
The Canadian portion of the Crown of the Continent (CCoC) ecosystems has been identified as crucial for wolverines north of the US border to supply individuals and genes through dispersal to the highly fragmented population in the northern US Rocky Mountains. Highway 3, motorized recreation, and a growing resource extraction industry, however, increasingly fragment this critical landscape.
Our 3-year project capitalizes on muti-year wolverine occupancy and genetic data collected noninvasively in a >40,000 km2 area encompassing the core protected areas of the central Canadian Rocky Mountains to the north; and Glacier-Waterton Lakes National Park complex in the south (Fig. 2).
Our goal is to obtain spatially-explicit information on the wolverine population, connectivity, and habitat relationships in the largely unstudied and vitally important international transboundary linkage region.
We are surveying wolverine occurrence using a systematic sampling design consistent with past wolverine research in the Canadian Rockies to enable data pooling and large-scale analyses. Three replicate monthly surveys are conducted within each survey year to incorporate detectability into occupation estimates.
Figure 2. Greater study area for noninvasive sampling of wolverine population in contect of areas previously sampled in the transboundary Rocky and Columbia Mountains.
2014 Annual Report
From January to April 2014, we deployed 20 sampling sites within our Waterton/Crowsnest Pass study area.
This winter we deployed a total of 63 hair trap sites in the Canadian Crown of the Continent study area. To complete sampling on the Alberta side of the Canadian Rockies 17 sites were set up, while 46 sites were set on the BC side of the Rockies (Fig.2). Of the 63 sites, 15 were accessed by helicopter in the more remote parts of the study area.
The Alberta study area covers an area south of Kananaskis Country to Highway 3, including 3 sampling sites in the Porcupine Hills east of Hwy 22. The BC sampling covers a considerably larger area, including the southern part of Kootenay National Park (n=4 sites), east of Hwy 95/93 to the Continental Divide and south to Hwy 3.
We completed sampling on the BC side of the Canadian Rockies and the greater study area sampled since 2010 (Fig.2). We deployed a total of 70 hair trap sites over an area of approx. 8208 km2. This study area included the entire Elk Valley watershed and the Flathead region south of Hwy 3 and east of Hwy 95/93 to the Continental Divide.
June 2016 – December 2016
We will pool wolverine occupancy and genetic data obtained from all sites surveyed with data collected using the same methods and experimental design over our greater study area (>50,000 km2). With these data the following objectives will be met:
- Estimate wolverine abundance and density to assess sustainability of trapper harvest in the Alberta and BC Rockies using spatial capture-recapture models
- Identify core habitats, dispersal corridors and key highway linkages for mitigation measures
- Assess fine-scale genetic structure and potential effects of highways on wolverine gene flow in the Crown of the Continent region
- Communication of science and technology transfer