Sharing the same slope: Behavioral responses of a threatened mesocarnivore to motorized and nonmotorized winter recreation

Lucretia E. Olson, John R. Squires, Elizabeth K. Roberts, Jacob S. Ivan, Mark Hebblewhite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Winter recreation is a widely popular activity and is expected to increase due tochanges in recreation technology and human population growth. Wildlife are frequently negatively impacted by winter recreation, however, through displacementfrom habitat, alteration of activity patterns, or changes in movement behavior. Westudied impacts of dispersed and developed winter recreation on Canada lynx (Lynxcanadensis) at their southwestern range periphery in Colorado, USA. We used GPScollars to track movements of 18 adult lynx over 4 years, coupled with GPS devicesthat logged 2,839 unique recreation tracks to provide a detailed spatial estimate ofrecreation intensity. We assessed changes in lynx spatial and temporal patterns inresponse to motorized and nonmotorized recreation, as well as differences in movement rate and path tortuosity. We found that lynx decreased their movement rate inareas with high-intensity back-country skiing and snowmobiling, and adjusted theirtemporal patterns so that they were more active at night in areas with high-intensityrecreation. We did not find consistent evidence of spatial avoidance of recreation:lynx exhibited some avoidance of areas with motorized recreation, but selected areasin close proximity to nonmotorized recreation trails. Lynx appeared to avoid highintensity developed ski resorts, however, especially when recreation was most intense. We conclude that lynx in our study areas did not exhibit strong negativeresponses to dispersed recreation, but instead altered their behavior and temporalpatterns in a nuanced response to recreation, perhaps to decrease direct interactionswith recreationists. However, based on observed avoidance of developed recreation,there may be a threshold of human disturbance above which lynx cannot coexist withwinter recreation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8555-8572
Number of pages18
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number16
StatePublished - 2018


  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Lynx canadensis
  • Ski resorts
  • Snowmobiles
  • Space use
  • Winterrecreation


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