Wolverine HabitatSelection in Response to Anthropogenic Disturbance in the Western Canadian Boreal Forest

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Forest Ecology and Management





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We evaluated alternative hypotheses that anthropogenic disturbance can attract versus displace wolverines (Gulo gulo luscus). Our research took place in boreal forests of northwestern Alberta where we employed radiotelemetry to track wolverine habitat use over three years. We used resource selection functions (used/available design) to analyze wolverine habitat selection patterns during summer and winter seasons. We focused our analyses on the effects of active logging, intermediate-aged cutblocks (11–25 years old), seismic lines, roads, and borrow pits on wolverine habitat selection. Our analysis of active logging used a before, during, interim, and after design. We found wolverines were attracted to logging areas. The strongest selection for logged areas occurred during logging and in the following summer. We suggest logged areas provide foraging opportunities and movement routes for wolverines. Male wolverines were attracted to the edges of intermediate-aged cutblocks (11–25 years old) during summer whereas females were attracted to cutblock edges in winter. However, females avoided intermediate-aged cutblock edges in summer. Moreover, both male and female wolverines avoided the interior of these cutblocks. We would suggest that cutblock edges can provide wolverines with foraging opportunities. We also found wolverines were attracted to seismic lines and borrow pits along roads. Regenerating seismic lines and borrow pits (inhabited by beavers) might offer wolverines foraging opportunities. Our research highlights the need for managers to appreciate the potential for anthropogenic disturbance to either attract or repel wolverines. We warn that attraction of wolverines to industrial features might lead to increased mortality. We also stress that the age of a disturbance can influence its effect on wolverines.