Friday, October 23, 2015

Presentation on mineral licks by Biologist Mike Jokinen

Alberta Conservation Association Biologist Mike Jokinen
T. Lucas photos
Toni Lucas

Alberta Conservation Association Biologist Mike Jokinen did a presentation on mineral licks at the South Country Trappers Association 2015 banquet at the Golf Course Restaurant in Pincher Creek. "The definition of a mineral lick is when animals intentionally eat the soil or water that is rich in minerals. Mineral licks are those places where they are accessible to those animals. The animals need these minerals when they aren't readily available in their forage." A few of the minerals Jokinen said the animals go to licks for are calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, or as it is most commonly referred to, salt. Unable to pop down to the local heath food store, pharmacy, or grocery store shopping aisle, the animals must seek natural places to fulfill their dietary requirements of these minerals to stay healthy. "I truly do believe that mineral licks do deserve more credit in the world of wildlife habitat management."

Using a visual presentation he explained how these mineral lick areas become a gathering place for a variety of animals including deer, moose, elk, sheep, goats as well as other species. Later in the presentation Jokinen said "Wherever you get a lot of game species, you also get a lot of carnivores." Jokinen showed licks can be found on steep slopes, rock faces, timbered flat surface areas, and in muck, or wet areas. "The purpose of all this camera work is to portray the importance of mineral licks as a critical habitat feature on the landscape. We would ultimately would like to see mineral licks receive additional protection."

Jokinen said there are current protections in certain areas for specific time frames to protect animals from industrial activity like timber harvest during sensitive or critical junctures such as mating season. "We feel mineral licks should evolve into a special management classification of their own, given the intensity of use by big game species."

"Ungulate populations are drawing on a much larger range than the mineral lick itself, for their everyday needs, like their food, their shelter, raising their young while they are on their summer range. So we began to investigate whether their might be a relationship to mountain goat populations and the location of the mineral licks on the landscape." Giving the example of aerial survey data on wildlife management area 402 to the northwest of Pincher Creek there were an average of 160 goats. "Forty seven percent of that population are located within 3 kilometers of those two mineral licks that we monitored in that wildlife management unit. A goats summer range is about 25 square kilometers in size, and when we move out into a five kilometre radius, we are getting over half the population, in five kilometres."

"We hope that all of our efforts will show that mineral licks do deserve some special management recommendations that are specific to mineral licks, and the animals that are using them, so they can benefit from their preservation."

During the presentation 

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