Species Profile

Caribou Eastern Migratory population

Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: April 2017
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2acd+4acd
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This migratory caribou population exists as four subpopulations from coastal western Hudson Bay to Labrador. The present population estimate of 170,636 mature animals indicates there has been an 80% overall decline in number over three generations (18-21 years). The decline is predicted to continue because of overharvest, and a decrease in habitat quality associated with climate change and development. Two declining subpopulations contain about 99% of the Eastern Migratory population; the George River has declined by 99% over 3 generations, and the Leaf River by 68% over two generations. Although migratory caribou populations fluctuate in abundance, there is concern that recent and predicted threats will limit population growth in a population that presently is at its lowest recorded level. Threats appear to be less prevalent in the two western subpopulations which represent only about 4% of the existing total population. Most of the remaining caribou reside in the Leaf River subpopulation, which continues to decline.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 2017.
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd):

No schedule - No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Description

Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a medium-sized member of the deer family. Their relatively long legs and large hooves facilitate living in deep snow associated with northern environments. Caribou are central to the culture, spirituality, and subsistence of many northern Aboriginal communities, and are also important to non-Aboriginal people across Canada. Caribou exhibit high variability in morphology, ecology, and behaviour across their circumpolar range. In 2011, COSEWIC recognized 12 designatable units (DUs); this report assesses the Eastern Migratory population (EM; DU4), and the Torngat Mountains population (TM; DU 10).[Updated by COSEWIC - Nov. 2016]

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Distribution and Population

The EM contains four subpopulations: Cape Churchill, which is found along the Hudson Bay coast at the Manitoba-Ontario border; Southern Hudson Bay, found in a similar area, but mainly further south and east into northern Ontario; Leaf River (in French; Rivière-aux-Feuilles), in northern Quebec; and George River (Rivière-George), in Quebec and Labrador. The combined range is over 1.5 million km². The TM Caribou exist as one population and occupy a range of approximately 28,000 km² in the Torngat Mountains inupper Labrador, Quebec, and Nunavut (Killiniq and adjacent islands). The minimum population size for the EM is 227,513 Caribou of all ages, based on the most recent total estimates for the Leaf River (2016) and George River (2016) subpopulations, and most recent minimum estimates for the Cape Churchill (2007) and Southern Hudson Bay (2011) subpopulations. The estimated number of mature animals is 170,636. The population estimate for mature Caribou of the EM three generations (18 – 21 years) ago is 833,774 Caribou, suggesting a decline of 80% over three generations. ATK supports that a decline has occurred in the George River subpopulation. The subpopulations in eastern EM range are known to fluctuate (based on ATK, and historical data) but it is unclear if the populations will increase again because of novel threats. Caribou in these DUs associate with lichen and grass-dominated tundra but the tundra landscape is changing due to climate warming. The number of George River subpopulation Caribou (until recently, the largest-sized subpopulation in the EM) is lower than previously recorded and threats are considered to be significant for the George River and Leaf River subpopulations. The population of the TM was estimated as approximately 5,000 ?Caribou in the 1980s, and at 930 ?Caribou (698 mature animals) in spring 2014, an estimated reduction of >80% in approximately 35 years (approximately 4 – 5 generations). ATK supports that a decline has occurred. Data do not exist on population changes over a three-generation time period. [Updated by COSEWIC - Nov. 2016]

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Habitat

Eastern Migratory Caribou mainly use tundra during calving and summer periods, and use taiga and mainly boreal forest during winter. The TM use alpine areas on mountain plateaus and adjacent valleys in the Torngat Mountains, and seashore areas. Caribou use hillsides, islands, and alpine plateaus for calving.[Updated by COSEWIC - Nov. 2016]

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Biology

Typical longevity in Caribou is

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Threats

Caribou are sensitive to disturbance. Industrial development, particularly mining and associated road networks, present threats to EM Caribou. Human overharvest of EM and TM Caribou is contributing to population declines. Populations generally are limited by food availability, but subsistence and sport hunting can be limiting at low population size, or in a declining population. A parasite, Besnoitia tarandi, became evident in the eastern subpopulations of the EM in the mid-2000s and may impact Caribou productivity. Climate change, through impacts on habitat quality and resource availability, also appears to be a threat for Caribou populations as the amount of shrubs increase on tundra landscapes. The threats calculator exercise concluded that the threat level was ‘Very High to High’ for the EM and ‘High’ for the TM Caribou. [Updated by COSEWIC - Nov. 2016]

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Protection

Federal Protection

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

4 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and status report on the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Eastern Migratory population, Torngat Mountains population in Canada (2018-01-17)

    Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a medium-sized member of the deer family. Their relatively long legs and large hooves facilitate living in deep snow associated with northern environments. Caribou are central to the culture, spirituality, and subsistence of many northern Aboriginal communities, and are also important to non-Aboriginal people across Canada. Caribou exhibit high variability in morphology, ecology, and behaviour across their circumpolar range. In 2011, COSEWIC recognized 12 designatable units (DUs); this report assesses the Eastern Migratory population (EM; DU4), and the Torngat Mountains population (TM; DU 10).

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Caribou, Eastern Migratory population (2018-01-18)

    This migratory caribou population exists as four subpopulations from coastal western Hudson Bay to Labrador. The present population estimate of 170,636 mature animals indicates there has been an 80% overall decline in number over three generations (18-21 years). The decline is predicted to continue because of overharvest, and a decrease in habitat quality associated with climate change and development. Two declining subpopulations contain about 99% of the Eastern Migratory population; the George River has declined by 99% over 3 generations, and the Leaf River by 68% over two generations. Although migratory caribou populations fluctuate in abundance, there is concern that recent and predicted threats will limit population growth in a population that presently is at its lowest recorded level. Threats appear to be less prevalent in the two western subpopulations which represent only about 4% of the existing total population. Most of the remaining caribou reside in the Leaf River subpopulation, which continues to decline.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2016 to 2017 (2017-10-24)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 40 wildlife species; of these, the majority (78 %) were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 73 species assessed 11 were assigned the status of Not at Risk (8 re-assessments and 3 new assessments). To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 735 wildlife species in various risk categories including 321 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 219 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated (i.e. - no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition 16 species have been assessed as Extinct, 58 have been designated as Data Deficient and 186 were assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2018 (2018-01-26)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 555 wildlife species at risk. In 2017, final listing decisions were made for 44 terrestrial species and 15 aquatic species. Of these 59 species, 35 were new additions, sixteen were reclassifications, three had a change made to how they are defined, two were removed from Schedule 1, one was referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation and two were the object of ‘do not list’ decisions. In 2017, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 45 wildlife species. It is proposed that 21 species be added to Schedule 1, 11 be reclassified, 12 would have a change made to how they are defined, and one would be referred back to COSEWIC for further evaluation. The listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 45 species are expected by August of 2018. Please submit your comments by May 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 22, 2018, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk Public Registry (SAR) website.
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