Effects of the Kenow Wildfire on bear activity in Waterton Lakes National Park

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Brassard, Dylan J.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Wildfires are increasing in severity throughout areas that support large carnivore species; Yet, our understanding of the impacts of these disturbance events on carnivore distributions and activity remains limited. In this thesis, I took advantage of a rare opportunity to compare pre-fire and post-fire activity levels of black bears and grizzly bears in response to the Kenow wildfire, a severe fire event that occurred in Waterton Lakes National Park in 2017. My results revealed a decrease in the activity of both species in the park following the wildfire, although for both species, changes in activity depended on other predictors. In particular, changes in black bear activity following the fire varied by region (burnt versus unburnt) and season, with significant declines in activity occurring in the unburnt region during the spring and summer and in the burnt region during the summer and autumn. Grizzly bear activity was predicted by a three-way interaction between time period, human activity, and season. Grizzly bear activity was significantly negatively associated with human recreation in the summer, with the magnitude of this relationship being stronger post-fire. Despite decreases in overall bear activity in the park, the locations of hotspots of activity were relatively stable, with only minor shifts in the concentration of grizzly bear activity. The response of black bears to human recreation varied with season and did not seem to change following wildfire, whereas the association between grizzly bear activity and human activity differed among seasons and varied before and after the fire. These results have implications for the management of bears in this region in the aftermath of a severe wildfire and more generally inform our understanding of the response of the two largest carnivores in North America to these types of extreme events.
bear , Ursus , wildfire , Waterton , GLMM , trail camera , camera trap , human recreation , human wildlife coexistence , interpolation , Waterton Lakes National Park (Alta.) , Kenow Fire, Alta., 2017 , Wildfires--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Animal ecology--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Bears--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Black bear--Effect of fires on--Research--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Grizzly bear--Effect of fires on--Research--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Black bear--Effect of human beings on--Research--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Grizzly bear--Effect of human beings on--Research--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Human-bear encounters--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Outdoor recreation--Alberta--Waterton Lakes National Park , Scouting cameras , Photography in wildlife monitoring , Dissertations, Academic