Mitchell Fennell

and 3 more

The management objectives of many protected areas must meet the dual mandates of protecting biodiversity while providing recreational opportunities. Balancing these mandates is made difficult by constraints on monitoring trends in the status of biodiversity and impacts of recreation. Using detections from 45 camera traps deployed between July 2019 and September 2021, we assessed the potential impacts of recreation on spatial and temporal habitat use for 8 medium- and large-bodied terrestrial mammals in an isolated alpine protected area: Cathedral Provincial Park, Canada. We hypothesized that some wildlife perceive a level of threat from people, such that they avoid ‘risky times’ or ‘risky places’ associated with human activity. Other species may benefit from associating with people, be it through access to anthropogenic resource subsidies or filtering of competitors/predators that are more human-averse (i.e., human shield hypothesis). Specifically, we predicted that large carnivores would show the greatest segregation from people while mesocarnivores and ungulates would associate spatially with people. We found spatial co-occurrence between ungulates and recreation, consistent with the human shield hypothesis, but did not see the predicted negative relationship between larger carnivores and humans, except for coyotes (Canis latrans). Temporally, all species other than cougars (Puma concolor) had activity patterns significantly different from that of recreationists, suggesting potential displacement in the temporal niche. Wolves (Canis lupus) and mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) showed shifts in temporal activity away from people on recreation trails relative to off-trail areas, providing further evidence of potential displacement. Our results highlight the importance of monitoring spatial and temporal interactions between recreation activities and wildlife communities, in order to ensure the effectiveness of protected areas in an era of increasing human impacts.

Cole Burton

and 11 more

Human disturbance directly affects animal populations but indirect effects of disturbance on species behaviors are less well understood. Camera traps provide an opportunity to investigate variation in animal behaviors across gradients of disturbance. We used camera trap data to test predictions about predator-sensitive behavior in three ungulate species (caribou Rangifer tarandus; white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus; moose, Alces alces) across two boreal forest landscapes varying in disturbance. We quantified behavior as the number of camera trap photos per detection event and tested its relationship to predation risk between a landscape with greater industrial disturbance and predator abundance (Algar) and a “control” landscape with lower human and predator activity (Richardson). We also assessed the influence of predation risk and habitat on behavior across camera sites within the disturbed Algar landscape. We predicted that animals in areas with greater predation risk (more wolf activity, less cover) would travel faster and generate fewer photos per event, while animals in areas with less predation risk would linger (rest, forage), generating more photos per event. Consistent with predictions, caribou and moose had more photos per event in the landscape where predation risk was reduced. Within the disturbed landscape, no prey species showed a significant behavioral response to wolf activity, but the number of photos per event decreased for white-tailed deer with increasing line of sight (m) along seismic lines (i.e. decreasing visual cover), consistent with a predator-sensitive response. The presence of juveniles was associated with shorter behavioral events for caribou and moose, suggesting greater predator sensitivity for females with calves. Only moose demonstrated a positive association with vegetation productivity (NDVI), suggesting that for other species influences of forage availability were generally weaker than those from predation risk. Behavioral insights can be gleaned from camera trap surveys and provide information about animal responses to predation risk and the indirect impacts of human disturbances.