Winter recreation and Canada lynx: reducing conflict through niche partitioning

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Outdoor recreationists are important advocates for wildlife on public lands. However, balancing potential impacts associated with increased human disturbance with the conservation of sensitive species is a central issue facing ecologists and land managers alike, especially for dispersed winter recreation due to its disproportionate impact to wildlife. We studied how dispersed winter recreation (outside developed ski areas) impacted a reintroduced meso-carnivore, Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), at the southern periphery of the species’ range in the southern Rocky Mountains. On a voluntary basis, we distributed global positioning system (GPS) units to winter recreationists and documented 2143 spatial movement tracks of recreationists engaged in motorized and nonmotorized winter sports for a total cumulative distance of 56,000 km from 2010 to 2013. We also deployed GPS radio collars on adult Canada lynx that were resident in the mountainous topography that attracted high levels of dispersed winter recreation. We documented that resource-selection models (RSFs) for Canada lynx were significantly improved when selection patterns of winter recreationists were included in best-performing models. Canada lynx and winter recreationists partitioned environmental gradients in ways that reduced the potential for recreation-related disturbance. Although the inclusion of recreation improved the RSF model for Canada lynx, environmental covariates explained most variation in resource use. The environmental gradients that most separated areas selected by Canada lynx from those used by recreationists were forest canopy closure, road density, and slope. Canada lynx also exhibited a functional response of increased avoidance of areas selected by motorized winter recreationists (snowmobiling off-trail, hybrid snowmobile) compared with either no functional response (hybrid ski) or selection for (backcountry skiing) areas suitable for nonmotorized winter recreation. We conclude with a discussion of implications associated with providing winter recreation balanced with the conservation of Canada lynx.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02876
JournalEcosphere
Volume10
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Keywords

  • Colorado
  • Lynx canadensis
  • backcountry skiing
  • dispersed recreation
  • functional response
  • habitat selection
  • heliskiing
  • outdoor recreation
  • resource-selection functions
  • snowmobiling
  • winter recreation

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