Woodland Caribou populations are in serious decline in Alberta with crucial habitat areas experiencing development pressure. Scientific studies conclude that NO caribou herds in Alberta are self-sustaining.
The Woodland caribou are the large, shy cousin to the better-known reindeer and migratory tundra caribou, found in Canada’s northern boreal forest. Alberta is home to over 3000 caribou in 13 distinct populations.
Woodland Caribou in Alberta are on the verge of extinction. Due to industrial activity, very little intact habitat is left in Alberta that can sustain Woodland caribou populations. Destruction of their range has also made the caribou more vulnerable to wolves. The map to the right shows where Woodland caribou occur in Alberta and identifies the likelihood of each range to maintain a self-sustaining local population. Of the 13 populations remaining in the province, most are in decline and several are at immediate risk of extirpation.
The Alberta Wildlife Act designates Woodland caribou as a threatened species due to the decline in their distribution and their low numbers resulting from direct habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.
Woodland caribou are an “umbrella species” - they're sensitive to disturbance, and thrive in intact forest. When Woodland caribou populations are healthy, chances are other species in the area are healthy too.
What’s happening now
The Alberta government’s land use planning process has opened the door to new protected areas that could help the province’s highly endangered Woodland caribou to survive.
The first plan, for the oil sands region of north eastern Alberta called the Lower Athabasca, was released in draft by the Alberta government on August 29, 2011.
While the plan requires industry to restore caribou habitat, restoration will not benefit caribou until 80 years later, when the forest is again old enough to support them. Meanwhile, logging and petroleum development continue to negatively impact caribou and their habitat.
To learn more, read CPAWS' and the David Suzuki Foundation's report, Population Critical: How are Caribou Faring?
CPAWS advocates for the protection of caribou habitat and holds government accountable for relevant legislation responsibilities to implement species recovery plans.
CPAWS Northern Alberta is working to...
What Can YOU Do?
Sign CPAWS' Petition telling the government you don't want any more commercial development in Jasper National Park's Maligne Valley, where the Maligne caribou herd is down to only 4 individual animals! Sign HERE.
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