Enhancing Ungulate Habitat With Prescribed Burns

Project Year: 2016-2017

View Provincial Database Record

Williston Reservoir Prescribed Burn: S. Rooke

Project Lead

Wildlife Infometrics Inc.


Peace Region


Project Type

Habitat-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Species of Interest Action Plan

Project ID


Prescribed Burns to Enhance Ungulate Habitat in North Central B.C.

This project will use prescribed burning to enhance ungulate habitat and to restore the ecological balance between early seral, mature and old growth forest covers within the Akie, Pesika, and Collins-Davis RMZs. There have been significant impacts to this landscape by fire suppression and timber harvesting. Fire suppression has reduced the amount of early seral ecotypes as a percentage of the total landscape, shifted the spatial arrangement of early seral and created a temporally homogenous landscape. Timber harvesting has created a matrix of early seral forests aggregated spatially at low- to mid-elevation, adjacent to roads and temporally cohesive. Prescribed fire will be used to recover these landscapes and a monitoring system will quantify the results.

Species expected to benefit include: Moose, elk, deer and Mountain Goat. This project will convert 9,000 hectares of mature/old growth to early seral habitat. By returning early seral to this landscape, it will increase the overall heath of this ecosystem and the reintroduction of early seral habitats is particularly beneficial for ungulates.

Final Report: Executive Summary

Over the past 50 years, fire suppression and local climate change, due to the Peace River’s W.A.C. Bennett Dam, has reduced the total extent and spatial distribution of early seral forests which ungulates rely on. Many areas that were historically maintained by fire, in a vegetative successional stage of grasses and shrubs, are now advancing to more mature structural stages. The goals of this project are to enhance ungulate habitat using prescribed fire, decrease overlap in habitat use by large ungulates (primarily moose (Alces alces) and elk (Cervus elaphus)) and threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), and effectively monitor the results of this management action. This project addresses the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) Species of Interest Action Plan, Objective 3: Protect and enhance populations of important ungulates. Sub-objective 3b, Restore or enhance priority ungulate populations and habitats, is addressed through the three actions identified in the Species of Interest Action Plan: Action 3b-1 – Conduct habitat enhancement to benefit moose, elk and deer populations where appropriate; Action 3b-2 – Conduct habitat enhancement to benefit sheep and goat populations, where appropriate; Action 3b-4 – Monitor habitat population response to habitat enhancement activities for important ungulate populations. This report provides a summary of the work and results of the project, in this (4th) year of project activities (2016-17), for which FWCP has provided two years of funding.

This project addresses the prior mentioned Action plan through the enhancement and/or restoration of approximately 5,000 ha of winter range habitat, primarily for moose, elk, mountain goat and Stone’s sheep, using prescribed fire. Secondary species benefiting from the enhanced habitats include grizzly bear and deer. Increasing winter range for moose will result in more abundant and healthier populations in areas outside identified caribou range, while restoring habitats for mountain goat, sheep and grizzly bear will provide more nutritional forage in winter ranges associated with steep escape terrain and berry-producing subalpine habitats. The efficacy of the prescribed burning in improving habitat conditions and wildlife response will be monitored through a scientifically-based effectiveness monitoring protocol.

Due to circumstances out of our control (poor weather, site conditions and the unavailability of BC Wildfire Service staff) in the spring and fall of 2016, the proposed burns were not ignited in 2016; however we were still able to achieve the other project objectives. The implementation plan developed in 2014 has been expanded to include new proposed burn sites, increasing the scope and scale of the project. We conducted pre-burn monitoring to increase the data set for future post-burn data collection, and we developed extension materials and increased involvement and knowledge transfer with members of Tsay Keh Dene. In 2016, using our past successes and failures in designing effectiveness monitoring sampling design, we focussed this year’s monitoring activities on standardizing and aligning our sampling methods with other prescribed burn and ecosystem restoration programs in BC. We implemented our new sampling design by conducting intensive pre-burn sampling of proposed burn blocks, and expanded the scope of the project to include habitat enhancement for not only moose and elk, but also to improve grizzly bear, mountain goat and Stone’s sheep habitat, which was not previously considered. We measured twenty-five sample sites, on fifteen proposed burn sites, in 3 biogeoclimatic zones. One hundred vegetation plots and twenty-five 200 m x 4 m wildlife transects were established and sampled in 2016. Using the results of our WOODS AND MCNAY WILDLIFE INFOMETRICS INC. Prescribed burns to enhance habitat for ungulates iii pre-burn data collection, we developed a model to predict the potential forage improvement for each of the proposed burn sites for each targeted wildlife species.

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database