Photo Credit: Dennis Donohue

Mammals

Welcome to the mammal section of ABMI's Biodiversity Browser. Scroll down the page to learn more about mammals and why they are important to monitor. Or click the button below to find out more about individual mammal species in Alberta.

Photo Credit: Ania Tuzel Photography

Introduction

There are over 80 mammal species in Alberta. This includes many well-known species that are emblematic of the Canadian wilderness, such as Beaver, Moose, Canada Lynx, Grizzly Bear and Gray Wolf.

Facts About Mammals

image Photo Credit: Knoth

The coyote can adapt to new surroundings by changing what it eats and where it sleeps. This is why this species is found throughout much of Alberta, including urban areas.

  • There are over 80 mammals specie in Alberta, ranging from the smallest mice and voles to the mighty Grizzly Bear and Moose. ABMI monitors mammals using remote cameras, which reliably detect species Coyote-size and larger.  
  • Several mammals are considered habitat generalists, such as the Coyote and White-tailed Deer. These species can use a wide variety of habitats in both natural and anthropogenic settings, and are found throughout much of the province.  
  • On the prairies, three mammal species are strongly associated with native grassland habitat: including Pronghorn, American Badger and Swift Fox. Because of hunting pressure and human settlement, other mammals species—like Bison, Gray Wolf and Grizzly Bear—no longer occur, or occur very rarely on the prairie.
  • Many mammal species are found in forested areas of the province. Of these, some prefer remote areas far from human activities, including Gray Wolf, Wolverine and Woodland Caribou. And some species are associated with older forest habitats, such as Fisher and Marten.
image Photo Credit: Nina Veselka

Photo of camera set up

Motion-activated remote cameras are used by the ABMI to monitor mammals across Alberta. Between 2014 and 2020, over 700,000 photos of 43 native mammal species were taken at sampling locations across the province.

Why Monitor Mammals

  • Many mammal species are socially and economically important, providing hunting and trapping opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Many of these same species are also valued as emblems of wilderness. As a result of this public interest, landuse planners are motivated to support management and monitoring efforts of these species.
  • Some species—Woodland Caribou, Wolverine, Fisher, Pronghorn and Badger, among others—are sensitive to human disturbance, and serve as indicators of sustainable land management. Further, some of these are at-risk, with federal and provincial legislation requiring management to support recovery goals.
  • Other species, like White-tailed Deer, Coyote and Raccoons, adapt well to human disturbance (and possibly a changing climate), serving as indicators of anthropogenic pressures on the landscape. 
  • All species, from top predators like Grizzly Bear and Gray Wolf through to smaller species like Snowshoe Hare, have important roles in maintaining native ecosystems.
image Photo Credit: Wayne Lynch

Canada Lynx is a specialist predator of Snowshoe Hare; lynx populations fluctuate with the hare population cycle. 

Research Spotlight

Applying and Testing a Novel Method to Estimate Animal Density from Motion-triggered Cameras

image Photo Credit: ABMI Camera Trap

Moose "detection" at an ABMI site, captured using a wildlife camera

Background

Estimating the density of animal populations over time is an important goal of wildlife monitoring programs like the ABMI. However, estimating density of unmarked populations is a challenging task. Based on a quadrat sampling approach, the Time in Front of Camera (TIFC) method calculates how long individual animals spend in the remote camera field of view based on the images collected.

Key Findings:

Results from this study indicate:

  • Using the example species of moose (Alces alces), the TIFC method performed well as a complementary source of data to traditional forms of sampling such as aerial surveys.
  • Further rigorous testing of assumptions—for example, testing the assumption that animal behaviour is not influenced by camera locations—is required to ensure unbiased estimates of population density.
  • The ABMI’s network of remote cameras can provide reliable moose density estimates at the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) scale; these estimates can be used by wildlife managers in conjunction with aerial survey results to set appropriate population goals.

For more details on this study see: Becker, M. et al. 2022. Applying and testing a novel method to estimate animal density from motion-triggered cameras. Ecosphere: In press.

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Lead Scientist for Mammals

Meet ABMI's Resident Mammal Expert

Marcus Becker

Marcus has been with the ABMI since 2016, and handles all mammal and camera-related analyses for the ABMI including density estimation and habitat modelling. He is a data scientist by training and is particularly enamoured with the R language.

If you have questions about ABMI's mammal monitoring program, please get in touch: mabecker@ualberta.ca

Additional Resources and Publications

How do we monitor mammals?

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2019. Terrestrial ABMI Autonomous Recording Unit (ARU) and Remote Camera Trap Protocols 2019-12-21. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: https://www.wildtrax.ca/home/resources/method-protocol.html

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2014. Terrestrial field data collection protocols (abridged version) 2014-03-21. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: https://www.abmi.ca/home/publications/1-50/46.html


How do we identify mammals?

Government of Alberta. 2016. Wildlife guide for Alberta's Roadways. Online access available here


Selected publications:

Becker, M., D.J. Huggard, M. Dickie, C. Warbington, J. Schieck, E. Herdman, R. Serrouya, and S. Boutin. 2022. Applying and testing a novel method to estimate animal density from motion-triggered cameras. Ecosphere, In Press.

Laurent, M., M. Dickie, M. Becker, R. Serrouya, and S. Boutin. 2021. Evaluating the Mechanisms of Landscape Change on White‚ÄźTailed Deer Populations. The Journal of Wildlife Management 85(2):340-353.


Presentations:

Remote camera data management (2022). Webinar available here.

Future directions in caribou monitoring & conservation. Webinar available here.

Leveraging Camera Data for Improved Precision (2020). Presentation available here.

Large mammal density estimation: Applications and assumptions of two emerging techniques (2020). Presentation available here.