One of the goals of the new Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) of British Columbia is to ensure that forest cover and forage will be conserved over an area necessary for winter survival of ungulate species, recognizing regional variance in the ecology of the ungulate species. This study assessed the ability of a query to predict late-winter habitat use by mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Supply Block F, Prince George Forest District, and inventoried signs of other species living in sympatry with deer. The study was carried out from 2 February to 4 March 2006 in 23 transects totalling 18 km. A total of 31 deer tracks were encountered during the survey. All the tracks were found in high-quality polygons. The observed frequency of tracks per polygon type was significantly different (P < 0.001) from random. Tracks were significantly more abundant than expected (P < 0.001) in high-quality polygons, and significantly less abundant than expected (P < 0.001) in medium- and low- quality polygons. All deer tracks were found along 1400 Road, in late-successional, conifer-dominated stands with a 50-60% canopy closure, tree height > 30 m, dbh > 26 cm, a basal area ranging from 30 to 55 m2/ha, on northwest and southwest aspects, slopes < 25%, and 10-20% shrub cover. A total of 722 tracks of furbearers and other ungulates were also recorded. Since both high- and medium- quality polygons encompassed late-successional forests, it was not surprising to find a greater abundance of tracks of squirrel, American marten and fisher in these polygons. In contrast, early to mid-successional species such as snowshoe hare and weasels had more tracks in low-quality polygons. This study showed that, in Supply Block F, deer late-winter habitat corresponded to high-quality polygons, which included late-successional stands with a well-developed canopy that provided thermal protection and snow cover interception. It also demonstrated that the VRI dataset can be advantageously used to develop winter habitat models. This study suggests that deer may be present to areas adjacent 1400 road. If this is the case, then the selection of mule deer winter range will have to be limited to the eastern portion of Supply Block F. It is therefore recommended that deer track inventories be repeated in winter 2007, in other regions of the study area.
Proulx, Gilbert. 2006. Field testing the ability of a query to predict late-winter habitat use by mule deer in Supply Block F, Prince George Forest District. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2006MR190