MW-01-040

Effects of Commercial and Salvage Mechanical Thinning on Wildlife Habitat Use During Winter in Lodgepole Pine Forests in Western Central Alberta
Sponsor: 
Millar Western Forest Products Ltd.
Lead Researcher: 
Jennifer Millar and Stacy Nehring, Millar Western Forest Products Ltd.
Body: 
In 1997, Millar Western conducted a study near Whitecourt to determine the effects of commercial and salvage thinning of lodgepole pine stands on habitat use by a variety of wildlife species. For the purposes of the study, commercial thinning was defined as thinning occurring in stands younger than 80 years as opposed to salvage thinning which occurs in stands older than 80 years.

The study used track counts, bed counts, and direct observation in two commercial thinning and two salvage thinning areas to assess use by wildlife species. Controls were also established. Stands that were similar to pre-thinned conditions and in close proximity to the thinned stands were also monitored for wildlife use. The wildlife species considered in the study included moose, elk, deer, coyote, fox, lynx, fisher, marten, snowshoe hare, weasel, red squirrel, mice, and birds.

The study found that there was a tendency for moose to both bed down and travel through thinned forests. It is expected that these behaviours are influenced by temperature and snowpack depth. It is therefore recommended that these activities be observed over several winters to see how they are influenced by weather severity. Future research recommendations are provided and may be of interest to companies planning similar studies.