Boreal Woodland Caribou Listed as Threatened

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Manitoba’s woodland caribou populations are being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act to strengthen steps already taken by the province to protect herds, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers announced today as part of Environment Week activities.

"Boreal woodland caribou populations appear to be maintaining themselves in Manitoba but we want to ensure they are given the opportunity to not only survive but also thrive in our province," said Struthers. "Listing the animals as threatened under the Endangered Species Act is one more step in a larger strategy."

A strategy document, released in April of this year entitled Manitoba’s Conservation and Recovery Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou, outlines objectives and guiding principles to ensure effective management of habitat and the creation of action plans that will sustain boreal woodland caribou.  Ongoing research will result in the action plans being updated as new information on this dynamic species comes forward, the minister said.

People from the Opaskwayak, Mosakahikan and Chemawawin Cree nations, the Brokenhead Objibway, Grand Rapids, Hollow Water, Black River and Sagkeeng First Nations as well as the Cormorant Resource Management Board are participating on local caribou committees in the northwest and east side regions. Various First Nations will also play an important role in the development of action plans that will stem from the strategy.

During the last five years, more than $1.7 million in support has been spent on woodland caribou, more resources than on any other species of conservation concern in Manitoba. Added support was provided in Budget 2006, which included new money for two biologists for management of species at risk including the boreal woodland caribou.

Boreal woodland caribou were once found throughout Manitoba’s boreal forest. Their disappearance from southern parts of their historical range is attributed to many factors including human activities affecting habitat, predators, parasites, diseases and uncontrolled hunting.

The current population of boreal woodland caribou in Manitoba is estimated to be between 1,800 and 3,200 spread across 10 identified ranges in the boreal lowlands, boreal shield ecozones and in other habitats in central Manitoba. The area extends from the Black Lake area in the southeast to the Lynn Lake area in the northwest.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada declared the western Canadian population of boreal woodland caribou as a vulnerable species in 1984. The Manitoba Endangered Species Advisory Committee assessed the status of boreal woodland caribou in Manitoba as endangered 1994. In 2002, the status was reassessed as threatened, excluding coastal populations. In 2003, the federal government listed boreal woodland caribou as threatened.

"We need to keep in mind the boreal caribou populations when considering proposed developments which may affect the habitat or health of caribou herds in the future," said Struthers. "Management efforts are directed at ensuring that boreal woodland caribou remain in Manitoba for centuries to come."

Currently, there are boreal woodland caribou management teams in place in both the eastern and northwestern regions of Manitoba. These teams are comprised of knowledgeable individuals and include First Nations, industry, Manitoba Hydro and other interested organizations.