By Mike Youds
December 26, 2013
Southern mountain caribou. Photo from Nature Conservancy of Canada. Photograph by: Canada-World.
A couple of mountain caribou calves in southern Wells Gray provincial park were captured by remote webcam earlier this year, providing a glimmer of hope for the endangered herd.
Other than that sighting, there has been no reversal in a steady decline of the herd, the species and its northern relative, the boreal caribou, cousins of the domesticated reindeer rooted in the Christmas narrative.
“I wish Santa Claus all the very best, but that depends on the decisions we make,” said Trevor Goward, a park resident and lichenologist who studies the winter food source of mountain caribou.
Very few of the animals have been seen in southern Wells Gray in recent years. A mountain caribou referral group will meet in the new year to review the status of the province’s recovery plan for the species, he said.
After an aerial survey last year counted only half of what was once a herd of 400, there is growing concern that population decline will continue without concerted action. At a meeting in Clearwater earlier this year, government biologists acknowledged that a triage approach involving three key initiatives would be the best way of halting the decline, Goward said.
Ottawa – In the first annual assessment of how well provinces and territories are enacting the requirements for conservation plans under the federal government’s National Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) find the majority are lagging behind badly.
“We gave low grades to six of the nine provinces and territories that still shelter boreal woodland caribou on their overall performance in conserving caribou over the past year. The only bright news is that three jurisdictions – Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories — received “medium” grades because they have made some welcome progress in conserving Santa’s reindeer’s Canadian cousins,” says Eric Hebert-Daly, CPAWS National Executive Director.
Boreal Woodland Caribou by Tin Can Forest
Canada’s boreal woodland caribou are of the same family as domesticated “reindeer” found in Nordic countries. However, more than half of Canada’s boreal woodland caribou populations are estimated to be at risk of extinction.