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The effect of snow on space use of an alpine ungulate: recently fallen snow tells more than cumulative snow depth

Richard, Julien H., Wilmshurst, John, Côté, Steeve D.
Canadian journal of zoology 2014 v.92 no.12 pp. 1067-1074
Oreamnos americanus, cold zones, energy conservation, energy expenditure, environmental factors, goats, national parks, snow, snowpack, wildlife, wind, winter, Alberta
Snow is one of the most limiting environmental factors for large wildlife of temperate and arctic zones during winter. Snow depth may limit space use, increase energy expenditure related to movement, limit resource availability, and ultimately affect individual survival. Most of the studies on the effect of snow on animal space use have used cumulative snow depth. The amount of recently fallen snow, however, could be more relevant for wildlife, especially in alpine and northern environments, where wind shifts and hardens the snow cover constantly. From 2011 to 2013, we studied space use of mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus (Blainville, 1816)) within Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. During winter, daily and weekly movements decreased with the amount of recently fallen snow, but not with cumulative snow depth. These results indicate that recently fallen snow should be included in wildlife space-use studies during winter. Limited movement and range size of mountain goats also highlight the energy-saving tactic used in winter by this species.