Large predators respond to land cover and physiography that maximize the likelihood of encountering prey. Using locations from global positioning system–collared wolves (Canis lupus), we examined whether land cover, vegetation productivity or change, or habitat-selection value for ungulate prey species themselves most influenced patterns of selection by wolves in a large, intact multiprey system of northern British Columbia. Selection models based on land cover, in combination with topographical features, consistently outperformed models based on indexes of vegetation quantity and quality (using normalized difference vegetation index) or on selection value to prey species (moose [Alces americanus], elk [Cervus elaphus], woodland caribou [Rangifer tarandus], and Stone's sheep [Ovis dalli stonei]). Wolves generally selected for shrub communities and high diversity of cover across seasons and avoided conifer stands and non-vegetated areas and west aspects year-round. Seasonal selection strategies were not always reflected in use patterns, which showed highest frequency of use in riparian, shrub, and conifer classes. Patterns of use and selection for individual wolf packs did not always conform to global models, and appeared related to the distribution of land cover and terrain within respective home ranges. Our findings corroborate the biological linkages between wolves and their habitat related to ease of movement and potential prey associations.
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Vol. 92 • No. 3