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Conserv Biol. 2011 Apr;25(2):365-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01609.x. Epub 2010 Nov 17.

The role of translocation in recovery of woodland caribou populations.

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Wildlife Biology Program, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.


Maintenance of viable populations of many endangered species will require conservation action in perpetuity. Efforts to conserve these species are more likely to be successful if their reliance on conservation actions is assessed at the population level. Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) were extirpated recently from Banff National Park, Canada, and translocations of caribou to Banff and neighboring Jasper National Park are being considered. We used population viability analysis to assess the relative need for and benefits from translocation of individuals among caribou populations. We measured stochastic growth rates and the probability of quasi extinction of four populations of woodland caribou with and without translocation. We used two vital rates in our analysis: mean adult female survival and mean number of calves per breeding-age female as estimates of mean fecundity. We isolated process variance for each vital rate. Our results suggested the Tonquin caribou population in Jasper is likely to remain viable without translocation, but that translocation is probably insufficient to prevent eventual extirpation of the two other populations in Jasper. Simulated reintroductions of caribou into Banff resulted in a 53-98% probability of >8 females remaining after 20 years, which suggests translocation may be an effective recovery tool for some caribou populations.

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