Frequency and Timing of Use of Mineral Licks by Forest Ungulates in Southwest Alberta
Mike Jokinen, Mike Verhage, Robert Anderson and Doug Manzer
Mineral licks are a unique resource used by all ungulate species in North America. Research on mineral licks in Alberta has generally been limited to assays of elemental content and to documenting the attraction of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) to human-made mineral licks (e.g., natural gas salty deposits). We monitored activity at mineral licks in forested zones in southwest Alberta to better understand their seasonal and daily use by ungulates. From 2010 to 2012, we identified and monitored the activity of elk (Cervus canadensis), deer (Odocoileus sp.) and moose (Alces alces) at nine mineral licks. The pattern of use was similar between years and among species. Visits typically
increased as licks became snow-free in spring, with frequency of use peaking in July. Each of the four species used licks from May to October. Given the intense use of mineral licks by ungulates, we suggest that licks and other important spatial resources (e.g., calving grounds, migration routes, stopover areas) be mapped and factored into land-use plans, with the objective of decreasing disturbance to these resources during key seasonal periods. Limiting disturbance is particularly important for ungulates while they are occupying their summer ranges because they devote effort to gaining mass, raising their young, replenishing dietary needs (minerals licks) and avoiding predation. We suggest human disturbance (e.g., heighted road use and industrial activity) be avoided within
500 m of licks from May to August.