Winter recreation is a widely popular activity and is expected to increase due to changes in recreation technology and human population growth. Wildlife are frequently negatively impacted by winter recreation, however, through displacement from habitat, alteration of activity patterns, or changes in movement behavior. We studied impacts of dispersed and developed winter recreation on Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) at their southwestern range periphery in Colorado, USA. We used GPS collars to track movements of 18 adult lynx over 4 years, coupled with GPS devices that logged 2,839 unique recreation tracks to provide a detailed spatial estimate of recreation intensity. We assessed changes in lynx spatial and temporal patterns in response to motorized and nonmotorized recreation, as well as differences in movement rate and path tortuosity. We found that lynx decreased their movement rate in areas with high-intensity back-country skiing and snowmobiling, and adjusted their temporal patterns so that they were more active at night in areas with high-intensity recreation. We did not find consistent evidence of spatial avoidance of recreation: lynx exhibited some avoidance of areas with motorized recreation, but selected areas in close proximity to nonmotorized recreation trails. Lynx appeared to avoid high-intensity developed ski resorts, however, especially when recreation was most intense. We conclude that lynx in our study areas did not exhibit strong negative responses to dispersed recreation, but instead altered their behavior and temporal patterns in a nuanced response to recreation, perhaps to decrease direct interactions with recreationists. However, based on observed avoidance of developed recreation, there may be a threshold of human disturbance above which lynx cannot coexist with winter recreation.
Olson, Lucretia E.; Squires, John R.; Roberts, Elizabeth K.; Ivan, Jacob S.; Hebblewhite, Mark. 2018. Sharing the same slope: Behavioral responses of a threatened mesocarnivore to motorized and non-motorized winter recreation. Ecology and Evolution. 8(16): 8555-8572.