Mountain caribou are an ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) that live in subalpine forests in south-eastern British Columbia, Canada, extending into northern Idaho and Washington, USA. These caribou are listed as Threatened in Canada, Endangered in the United States, and are the subject of recovery planning efforts in both countries. Many areas of mountain caribou winter habitat experience intensive use by recreational snowmobilers. During 4 surveys, we recorded caribou on all 4 census blocks with little or no snowmobile activity (x̄ density = 0.41 caribou/km2), but during 3 of 4 years, we observed no caribou on the census block with intensive snowmobile activity. The year we observed caribou on the snowmobile block, most were using areas inaccessible to snowmobiles. We used a Resource Selection Function (RSF) based on radiotelemetry data for the area to compare habitat quality among the different census blocks. The absence of caribou from the intensive snowmobile area during most years could not be explained by differences in habitat quality. The RSF predicted that the intensive snowmobile area could support 53–96 caribou (95% CI). We conclude that intensive snowmobiling has displaced caribou from an area of suitable habitat. We recommend that snowmobile activity be restricted from all or most high-quality mountain caribou habitat as part of the recovery planning process.
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Vol. 71 • No. 5