Habitat security mapping for improving human-wildlife coexistence in the Bow Valley

  • Jessica Theoret – Master’s student, University of Calgary
  • Marco Musiani, Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Calgary
  • Partner Organization: Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
    • Hilary Young
  • Other Partners:
    • Alberta Parks

Project Timeline: April  – August 2020

Region: Bow Valley, AB

The projected increase of human use in the Bow Valley of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains may contribute to a loss of habitat for sensitive wildlife species, including large carnivores, and therefore increased human-wildlife interactions. This research is based on one of 28 recommendations developed by a group of experts to improve human-wildlife coexistence in the Bow Valley. To inform managers for their human management-based decision making, the Mitacs Accelerate Intern will develop a method to identify and map areas of habitat where grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), a sensitive species, may meet their daily food and habitat requirements while also assessing varying levels of human use within those areas. Secure habitat is considered areas where bears may meet their needs without being disturbed by humans, while insecure habitat areas are possible targets for human management. Based on a literature review of current and innovative methods for mapping habitat security using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and through the collaboration of stakeholders (wildlife experts, the Province of Alberta, Parks Canada, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), two other non-governmental organizations and with support provided by the Canadian Mountain Network), zones of habitat security will be categorized based (minimally) on:

  • the level of human use;
  • the habitat value for grizzly bears; and
  • the potential for human-wildlife interactions.

Proactive management of land use, wildlife populations and people has proven integral for the persistence of wide-ranging mammals in the Bow Valley. Habitat security mapping in this unique area, where bears and other large carnivores persist despite heavy human use, will contribute to the Bow Valley’s renowned wildlife management techniques and has the potential to inform efforts in other jurisdictions.

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