Caribou can’t survive without a place to live

Boreal woodland caribou are threatened with extinction in Canada. Decades of science show the impacts of human activities and natural disturbances within their ranges. With increased disturbance comes increased risk.

Environment Canada has identified the “critical habitat” that caribou need to survive and recover. A team of North America’s leading caribou experts established a strong relationship between the extent of habitat disturbance and whether a local population increases, declines or remains stable. From this, the federal government determined a continuum of risk.

In 2012, the federal government gave provinces and territories five years to develop range plans for each herd that show how ranges will be managed to effectively protect critical habitat. The recovery strategy identifies a minimum of 65 per cent undisturbed habitat in a range as the “disturbance management threshold,” which provides a 60 per cent chance of the local herd surviving.

The five-year deadline for caribou range plans passed on October 5 without any plans from provinces or territories.

The recover strategy is clear: Less than half of Canada’s caribou populations are likely to survive unless cumulative disturbance is reduced.

Caribou need their critical habitat protected now more than ever.

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