Researchers have debated the effect of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAP) and associated developments to caribou (Rangifer tarandus) of the central Arctic herd (CAH) since the 1970s. Several studies have demonstrated that cows and calves of the CAH avoided the TAP corridor because of disturbance associated with the pipeline, whereas others have indicated that female caribou of the CAH avoided riparian habitats closely associated with the pipeline. This avoidance was explained as a predator-avoidance strategy. We investigated the relation between female caribou and grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) use of river corridors on the yet undisturbed calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd (PCH) in northeastern Alaska. On the coastal plain, caribou were closer to river corridors than expected (P = 0.038), but bear use of river corridors did not differ from expected (P = 0.740). In the foothills, caribou use of river corridors did not differ from expected (P = 0.520), but bears were farther from rivers than expected (P = 0.001). Our results did not suggest an avoidance of river corridors by calving caribou or a propensity for bears to be associated with riparian habitats, presumably for stalking or ambush cover. We propose that PCH caribou reduce the risks of predation to neonates by migrating to a common calving grounds, where predator swamping is the operational antipredator strategy. Consequently, we hypothesize that nutritional demands, not predator avoidance strategies, ultimately regulate habitat use patterns (e.g., use of river corridors) of calving PCH caribou.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Grizzly bears and calving caribou: What is the relation with river corridors?|
|Series title||Journal of Wildlife Management|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Arctic National Wildlife Refuge|