Spatial Responses of Wolves to Roads and Trails in Mountain Valleys
October 27, 2020
Increasing levels of human activity in mountainous areas have high potential to inhibit animal movement across and among valleys. We examined how wolves respond to roads, trails, and other developments. We recorded the movements of two wolf packs for two winters by following their tracks in the snow and simultaneously recording positions with a hand-held global positioning system. We then used matched case-controlled logistic regression to compare habitat covariates of wolf paths (cases) to multiple paired random locations (controls). This analysis emphasized the differences within pairs of cases and controls, rather than differences in their overall distribution, making it useful to assess finescale habitat selection and path data. Both packs selected low elevations, shallow slopes, and southwest aspects. They selected areas within 25 m of roads, trails, and the railway line and more strongly selected low-use roads and trails compared to high-use roads and trails. One pack strongly avoided distances between 26 and 200 m of high-use trails; otherwise, the wolves weakly selected or avoided this distance class. Both packs avoided areas of high road and trail density. We concluded that roads and trails have a cumulative effect on wolf movement and that management of trails, in addition to roads, may be needed to retain high-quality habitat for wolves, particularly in known movement corridors.
Author(s): JESSE WHITTINGTON, COLLEEN CASSADY ST. CLAIR, AND GEORGE MERCER