Effects of helicopter skiing on mountain goats and woodland caribou in British Columbia

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Steven Foster Wilson 


Helicopter skiing is a popular adventure tourism activity that occurs within the range of mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) and/or woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in British Columbia and, to a lesser extent in adjacent jurisdictions. Both are species of concern, with known or suspected population declines occurring in substantial portions of their respective ranges. Whether helicopter skiing is contributing to these declines is of interest to governments and the sector. Here, I review available literature in the context of a conceptual model of potential impacts, to assess available evidence for adverse effects. Most studies have assessed the short-term behavioural responses of mountain goats and woodland caribou to approaches by helicopters and skiers, and a clear dose-response relationship has been demonstrated. Studies of GPS-collared mountain goats and woodland caribou have not correlated displacement from preferred habitats with helicopter skiing activities, although one study presented evidence that backcountry ski touring displaced caribou. Effects on survival and/or reproduction have not been studied. Additional studies of faecal cortisol concentrations may provide additional insight, if correlated with other responses. Understanding the demographic consequences of helicopter skiing is important for management of the sector but will likely be challenging to estimate. Setting socially acceptable levels of impacts from this and other sectors will be important to maintain or restore self-sustaining populations of mountain goats and woodland caribou.




Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


adventure tourism, helicopters, mountain goats, skiing, woodland caribou


Published: 2022-07-25 14:43

Last Updated: 2022-07-29 14:42

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Conflict of interest statement:
SFW was compensated by Helicat Canada for the preparation of this review. Helicat Canada is an industry association representing helicopter and snowcat skiing operators in Canada.