Boreal caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is one of Canada’s most iconic species. It is classified as threatened in Ontario under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 and as threatened nationally under the Species at Risk Act. This means that it is “likely to become endangered if nothing is done to reverse the factors leading to its extirpation or extinction”. Boreal caribou were re-assessed by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) in November 2014 and determined to be Threatened. Much of its habitat was found to be degraded and the species is declining especially in the southern part of its range in Canada.
Wildlands League has been sounding the alarm on boreal caribou for a number of years because scientists were concerned at the rate by which Ontario’s boreal woodland caribou were disappearing – due largely to human destruction of their habitat. Caribou are bellwethers of the Boreal Forest’s health. They thrive in landscapes that are largely untouched by industrial development.
Only 2 of 13 caribou ranges in Ontario were recently found to have sufficient habitat to sustain caribou populations.
Province-wide, Ontario has already lost 40-50% of its historic boreal caribou distribution. And local caribou populations here are facing high-risk situations. If conservation measures are not built into new development plans, then Ontario’s caribou could face the same fate as those in other provinces like Alberta, where continuing industrial development pressures threaten to wipe out some herds entirely.
Protecting the habitat of boreal caribou means the Boreal Forest ecosystem as a whole would benefit including other species that rely on healthy, intact forests for their survival such as wolverine and interior songbirds.
It is vital that effective, science-based conservation measures be built into development plans and that action plans for each of the ranges in Ontario to be completed.