Ungulate winter range in the West Kootenays is currently managed using linework and forest management guidelines within the Kootenay Boundary Landuse Plan - Implementation Strategy, created in 1997. At the time of its release little empirical data from local ungulate populations existed, and linework and recommendations were questioned at the scale of local populations. Since then, several empirical studies of ungulate movements and habitat use in the West Kootenays have been performed in an effort to provide an empirical basis for refinements to linework and guidelines. This document reports the findings of one of these studies. The primary objective of this study therefore, was to provide empirical data on mule deer movements and winter habitat use within a traditional winter range in the West Kootenays, in support of refinements to regional linework and guidelines. We tracked 12 mule deer between February 1999 and April 2003 using GPS-radiotelemetry in the Lemon Creek drainage of south-east BC, a forest tenure managed by Slocan Forest Product. We determined seasonal home ranges and habitat use of wintering mule deer. We also tested winter resource selection at the home-range and within-home-range scale to test a hypothesis that ungulate resource selection is scale-dependent. All sampled mule deer in this population were migratory demonstrating a consistent pattern of movement from low-elevation winter ranges to high-elevation summer ranges. We found little consistent selection at the within-home-range scale, but considerable selection at the home-range scale, supporting a scale-dependent hypothesis. Multi-variate modelling indicated that potential mule deer winter range could be predicted from two biophysical attributes: elevation and solar duration or aspect. Currently suitable winter habitat can then be further delineated on the basis of amounts of mature Douglas-fir/Ponderosa pine forest within this zone. This is consistent with current guidelines employing a strategy of focusing on amounts of mature coniferous forest cover. The findings in this study contribute important empirical data for refinements to regional linework and guidelines. As well, the following detailed forest cover recommendations can be presented to local managers that are specific to areas in and around Lemon Creek drainage. Managers can safely identify landscape-scale potential mule deer winter habitat on the basis of two biophysical attributes: warm to hot aspects and low-elevation sites. Currently suitable wintering habitat on these sites can then be further delineated and managed on the basis of landscape-scale amounts of mature Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine defined as : stands with >50% Douglas-fir-Ponderosa pine stand composition, age class 5+, and crown closure class 3+.
D'Eon, Robert G., Serrouya, Robert. 2004. Mule deer seasonal movements and habitat use in Lemon Creek, British Columbia. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2004MR048