Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program
FIA Project 4600013

    Skull resource management zone monitoring program: mule deer winter range and vegetation 2006-07 summary report
Project lead: Tolko Industries Ltd.
Contributing Authors: van Woudenberg, Astrid M.; Thomas, Tracy
Imprint: Kamloops, BC : Cascadia Natural Resource Consultants Inc., 2007
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), Natural Disturbances, British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program
The Skull Resource Management Zone (RMZ) is located in the Interior of British Columbia, near Barriere, approximately 100km north of Kamloops. In 1998, an alternative harvesting prescription designed to create winter forage for Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionous) and restore indigenous wildlife and vegetation communities was first applied to the Skull RMZ. A long-term monitoring program was established to investigate harvest treatment effects on mule deer winter habitat. Wildfire dramatically changed the landscape of the Skull RMZ in 2003. The McLure fire affected most of the study area. During the fall season immediately following the wildfire, surveys were conducted to determine broad fire intensity at each established sample site. Mule deer activity and use in the area has been sampled in early and late winter conditions each year since 2003. Survey transects represent a broad spectrum of post-fire habitats. In particular, three treatments: original harvest, post-burn salvage (in 2004), and controls (no harvest) sampled across two broad fire severity classes, derived from Forest Industry’s burn classification endorsed by Ministry of Environment (D. Jones pers. comm.). Mule deer use at the Skull RMZ documented in 2006-07 showed extensive use of postwildfire recovering understory in early winter. In late winter, although deer activity was observed at lower elevations on the RMZ as a result of deep snow packs (IDFxh2), activity remained unexpectedly high at higher elevations (IDFdk2). In particular beds, were recorded disproportionately higher in open stands in the IDFdk2 than in IDFmw2. The results suggest that dry snow conditions in steep and diverse terrain, characteristic of the IDFdk2 on the Skull RMZ, may be key factors influencing deer movement in late winter. Open stands in the IDFdk2 within crown closure class 1, <15%, were frequently used in a relatively high snowpack year, suggesting forest cover may not have been a key factor. Preliminary forest management implications include partial cuts with open stand densities of mature-veteran retention, at least in diverse terrain. Recommendations for 2007-08 include obtaining a compilation of all salvage harvest and subsequent re-assessment of mule deer winter range monitoring sample design. Progressive post-burn salvage, blowdown, tree mortality and needle loss have contributed to potential changes in treatments. Detailed quantitative analyses are recommended to understand key habitat features, but only after salvage data compilation has been integrated into the mule deer database.
prepared by Astrid M. van Woudenberg and Tracy Thomas.


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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