Wildlife Habitat Research
Current Focus Areas
Extension and Consultations
The extent and diversity
of ecosystems in British Columbia provide habitat for many wildlife species, and
their conservation is sometimes in conflict with forest management. In order to
make informed decisions, resource managers require scientifically reliable
information on the structure and function of forest ecosystems and a greater
understanding of species and their habitat use. The most vulnerable species may
inhabit a range of geographical scales, from caribou, which are sensitive to
landscape-level habitat fragmentation, to marbled murrelets, which are sensitive
to stand-level disturbance because they occupy large trees in coastal old-growth
The Wildlife Habitat
research program focuses on studying species that are particularly sensitive to
forest management activities. It specifically studies aspects such as habitat
selection and use, behaviour, population dynamics, and mortality factors.
Researchers seek to develop land use management options and silvicultural
systems that can accommodate timber harvesting, maintain wildlife
habitat, and protect
Research results are
incorporated into complex analytic and decision-making models that can be used
to assess spatial-temporal species habitat supply requirements, integrate
economic and social factors into resource management decisions, and account for
factors that contribute to uncertainty and risk in decision-making.
The Wildlife Habitat
research program is actively involved in a variety of Ministry initiatives,
including accommodating resource values other than timber in land use and
sustainable forest management planning, and developing tools to assist forest
managers to respond to large-scale concerns such as the
mountain pine beetle outbreak or
climate change. Wildlife habitat
researchers have contributed expertise to the
Future Forest Ecosystems Initiative,
Forests for Tomorrow program
Forest and Range Practices Act
Forest Resource Evaluation Program (FRPA/FREP),
the Biodiversity Team, and the conservation and recovery of species at
For more detailed
information on the wildlife habitat research conducted by the Research Branch
please visit the following web pages:
Quantifying forest stand, landscape, and regional attributes that influence
mountain caribou habitat use, fragmentation, and predation rates.
the implications of mountain pine beetle salvage harvesting on grizzly
bears, moose, and mountain caribou.
long-term monitoring of the distribution, abundance, population dynamics,
habitat use, and behavioural changes of grizzly bear populations in the
Flathead River drainage, and the impact of extensive forest harvesting.
- Evaluating and refining guidelines
for forest buffers, such as avalanche chutes and riparian areas, for grizzly
bear habitat management in managed landscapes. [more]
analytic and decision-making models for assessing spatial-temporal habitat
supply and mortality risk to grizzly bears from scenarios involving forest
- Developing methods for describing and
analyzing socio-ecological systems with an emphasis on wildlife habitat
supply. Including the application of collaborative frameworks that integrate
data, information, spatial-temporal models, domain expertise, and
decision-making in support of sustainable forest management planning at
multiple scales and perspectives.
strategic analysis frameworks for forest and wildlife management that
account for the uncertainty created by such factors as mountain pine beetle
outbreaks and climate change.
- Developing methods to model current
habitat, and predict the future supply of habitat, for key wildlife species
affected by large-scale lodgepole pine mortality and the proliferation of
roads following salvage harvest. This project, in conjunction with the
Nature Conservancy of Canada, involves multiple stakeholders, and is focused
on mapping areas of high conservation significance for biodiversity in the
- Contributing the best
available scientific knowledge and management recommendations to the caribou
recovery strategy. [more]
scenario analysis of potential future landscape changes and caribou
population responses to help identify strategies that will enhance the
resilience of the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou population to disturbance.
- Developing a toolkit model approach
to sustainable forest management planning that better achieves a balance
between science and local needs.
- Applying economics’ real
options methodology, used to aid in decision making under uncertainty, to
develop techniques to evaluate resource management decision making when
there is the potential for irreversible consequences, such as the
extirpation of a caribou population.
- Conducting GPS telemetry of grizzly bears in the southern Coast Mountain
Range to determine foraging ecology, habitat selection, and population
characteristics, and in the Elk Valley to assess the impacts of development
- Monitoring the population dynamics, habitat use, and behaviour of
grizzly bears in response to industrial activities for 30 years at the
Flathead Valley Research Installation in southeast B.C. With its
exceptionally long history of wildlife research, the Flathead project has
garnered international recognition as a benchmark study documenting the
relationships between industrial development and conservation values.
- Applying scenario-planning methods to examine possible futures and
trade-offs in supplying wood products, maintaining biodiversity, and
providing grizzly bear habitat in southeastern B.C.
- Adapting the real options approach from economic theory to develop a
technique for incorporating ecological and social uncertainty into forest
management decision making.
- Summarizing the current knowledge on climate change impacts and the
management implications for terrestrial wildlife to support prioritizing of
adaptation and stewardship efforts and developing policies for ameliorating
Wildlife ecology researchers dedicate a
significant amount of time to communicating research results and recommendations
through extension and consultation on a variety of wildlife-related issues.
Researchers consult with the Chief Forester’s office, Regional Management Teams,
District staff, First Nations managers, and other agencies (such as the
Integrated Land Management Branch) on topics such as management responses to the
mountain pine beetle outbreak, implementation of the Forest and Range Evaluation
Program Biodiversity Resource values, and implementation of the Species at Risk
Recovery Plan. As a member of the Provincial Mountain Caribou Science Team, we
have provided consultation and research results on caribou recovery to a
spectrum of stakeholders, from mining company staff to First Nations and
environmental non-governmental organizations.
Wildlife ecology researchers participate on several formal committees:
Future Forest Ecosystems Initiative,
Technical Committee – Co-ordination of research knowledge to develop a sound
scientific foundation for understanding climate change and ecosystem
Bulkley Valley Centre for Natural Resources Research and Management,
Director – Conducts
high-quality interdisciplinary research on temperate, montane, and boreal
ecosystems, including their human dimensions.
Northwest Data-Sharing Network
– Organizes and shares local resource management information in northwestern
British Columbia. for operational and strategic planning and monitoring, and
encourages collaboration between forest industry, First Nations, and
provincial government agencies.
Mountain Caribou Science Team
– Provides government with science-based options for caribou recovery.
Caribou Committee – Links
current research to forest industry and other user groups.
Habitat Team – Delineates
forests to be left unharvested for mountain caribou.
Caribou and Forest Health –
Provides guidance for managing forest health issues (insects, disease, and
fire) in or adjacent to caribou habitat.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN),
Bear Specialist Group (Co-chair)
– Co-ordinates conservation efforts for bears world-wide.
Publication Committee, Advisory Board
– Oversees the production of Ursus, a scientific journal on all
aspects of bear management and research worldwide.
Morgan, D.G., S.B. Abdallah, and P. Lasserre. 2008. A real options approach
to forest-management decision making to protect caribou under the threat of
extinction. Ecology and Society 13(1): 27.
Morgan, D., K. Swift, and P. Diunker. 2008. Scenario planning being used to
evaluate uncertain future supply of ecosystem services. Link. 10(3): 10-12.
Serrouya, R. and R.G. D’Eon. 2008. The influence of forest cover on mule deer
habitat selection, diet, and nutrition during winter in a deep-snow ecosystem.
For. Ecol. Manag. 256: 452–461.
Serrouya, R., B.N. McLellan, and J.P. Flaa.
2007. Scale-dependent microhabitat selection by threatened mountain caribou (Rangifer
tarandus caribou) in cedar-hemlock forests during winter. Can. J. For. Res.
B.R., A. Fall, D.D. Kneeshaw, N.P.P. Simon, M.J. Papaik, K. Berninger, F. Doyon,
D.G. Morgan, and C. Messier. 2007. A toolkit modeling approach for sustainable
forest management planning: achieving balance between science and local needs.
Ecol. and Soc. 12(2):7. [pdf]
Wittmer, H.U., B.N. McLellan, R.
Serrouya, and C.D. Apps. 2007. Changes in landscape composition influences the
decline of a threatened woodland caribou population.
J. Animal Ecol. 76:568-579. [pdf]
Apps, C.D., and B.N. McLellan.
2006. Factors influencing the dispersion and fragmentation of mountain caribou
populations. Biol. Conserv. 130:84–97. [abstract]
Apps, C.D., B.N. McLellan, and
J.G. Woods. 2006. Landscape partitioning and spatial inferences of competition
between black and grizzly bears. Ecography 29:561–572. [abstract]
Wittmer, H.U., F.W. Hovey, and
B.N. McLellan. 2006. Factors influencing variation in site fidelity of mountain
caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in southeastern British Columbia.
Can. J. Zool. 84:537–545. [abstract]
Don Morgan, Acting Manager, Wildlife and Range (Smithers)
Bruce McLellan, Senior Wildlife Habitat Ecologist (D’Arcy and Revelstoke)
Fred Hovey, Wildlife Habitat Analyst (Kamloops)
Rob Serrouya, Wildlife Habitat
Ministry contact: Evelyn Hamilton.
Please direct questions regarding webpage to For.Prodres@gov.bc.ca
Updated May 2009