Environmental Monitoring and Research

13 years of Wolverine Snow Track Monitoring at the Diavik Mine: What Have We Learned?

Thursday, November 21, 2019 - 10:00am to 10:20am Theatre Two


D.W. Coulton (Presenting)
Golder Associates Ltd.
J.A. Virgl
Golder Associates Ltd.
S. Sinclair
Diavik Diamond Mines (2012) Inc.

Diavik conducts annual snow tracking surveys for wolverine to test the prediction that the mine would not cause a measurable shift in wolverine presence in the study area. This prediction has been evaluated primarily through snow track surveys during mid-(December) and late-(March) winter, and by recording direct mine-related incidents and mortalities. Over the 13 years since monitoring began, the program has been adapted from learnings. The first design of snow track monitoring was based on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and later adapted to standardize sampling and improve statistical power for detecting change. Another lesson was that there was little value in monitoring during December as the presence of snow tracks was highly variable and limited the ability to detect measurable change. The snow track survey has been completed twice in spring since 2015 to measure track detection rates, which have varied through time. While snow-track monitoring measures relative activity and distribution, it generally corresponds with abundance over time measured from hair snagging. Although wolverine frequent the mine site, improvements in waste management have resulted in fewer mortalities over time, with a long-term average of 0.29 wolverine per year. The long-term trend from snow tracking indicates a slight increased presence of wolverine in the study area. One explanation could be an increase in food availability from range contraction of caribou during the Bathurst decline phase. In conclusion, mortality monitoring indicate a small effect associated with the mine but do not support the mine has adversely affected barren-ground wolverine populations in the NWT.