Wolf Reproduction in Response to Caribou Migration and Industrial Development on the Central Barrens of Mainland Canada
Keywords:wolf, Canis lupus, caribou, Rangifer tarandus, cumulative effects, disturbance, migration, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, predator-prey, reproductive success
Reproductive success of mammals is greatly influenced by food availability. Where wolves (Canis lupus) prey on migratory barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus), caribou migration patterns strongly influence food availability for wolves. However, industrial development in formerly undeveloped wolf range could also negatively influence wolf reproduction, either directly (by disrupting normal feeding behavior) or indirectly (by impacting caribou migrations). We used a cross-sectional timeseries regression to analyze eight years of wolf reproductive data with respect to spatial and temporal variation in caribou migration and economic development in a 49 900 km2 area of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Reproductive success decreased as the distance from wolf dens to caribou migration routes increased, while the timing of caribou migrations had little effect. There was no measurable effect of current levels of economic development on reproductive success, although evidence suggests the potential for indirect effects. Continued monitoring is required to identify possible thresholds of adverse effects for wolf populations.