Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Every animal requires space where they can perform activities to survive and reproduce. For land animals, components of space use include area and habitat. Because most land animals are living on a human dominated landscape, understanding home range area and habitat needs is critical to their conservation. This is particularly relevant for threatened or endangered species such as the gray wolf (Canis lupus). The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimates home ranges and habitat use of wolves in northwestern Minnesota; however, a subset of this population lives within the bounds of Red Lake Indian Reservation, where The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians manage wolves independent of the state. The Red Lake Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Program has been monitoring wolf population numbers using GPS collars since 2012, and my objectives were to use the GPS collar data to estimate home range and habitat use of gray wolves found within and around Red Lake Indian Reservation. I used minimum convex polygon as well as autocorrelated kernel density estimation, which reveals if a defined home range does exist and better captures the autocorrelative nature of GPS relocation data, and tested for seasonal changes in the latter estimates. I also used kernel density and Brownian bridge for home range estimator comparisons. I estimated population and individual level habitat use of gray wolves and tested for habitat selection using multinomial models, which included testing for variation in selection related to season and sex. I investigated one aspect of movement behavior by testing if land class, season, or sex predicted movement speed. I found that the average home range of Red Lake wolves was 1716km2 using minimum convex polygon and 291km2 using autocorrelated kernel density estimation. Only 7 of 16 total wolves displayed a restricted home range, and I was unable to detect any impact of season on restricted home range size. For wolves with a restricted home range, kernel density, autocorrelated kernel density, and Brownian bridge provided similar results, whereas minimum convex polygon provided significantly lower results. For wolves without a restricted home range, minimum convex polygon and kernel density estimation provided similar results, whereas Brownian bridge estimation provided significantly lower results. Because home range is typically estimated to inform managers of minimum required area for a species, estimator selection should be considered carefully due to the possible underestimation of home range area. I found that gray wolves on Red Lake used mostly woody wetlands, regardless of season, time of day, or sex. I detected an overall selection of woody wetlands and an avoidance of developed areas. I found that gray wolves tend to travel slower through forested areas, likely due to foraging, and faster through developed areas, which were likely used for travel along roads. Red Lake Indian Reservation consists of primarily woody wetlands, and although there is currently no limitation of available habitat for wolves, monitoring and preservation of wooded areas should continue as wolf populations on Red Lake lands continue to increase.
Levin, June, "Home Range And Habitat Selection Of Gray Wolves (canis Lupus) On Red Lake Indian Reservation And Surrounding Areas" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 3107.