Species Profile

Caribou Boreal population

Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
Other/Previous Names: Woodland Caribou (Boreal population)
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2014
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A3bc+4abc
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This population occurs at naturally low densities in mature boreal forest habitats from Labrador to Yukon, with small, isolated populations at the southern part of the range, including along the Lake Superior coastline and in the Charlevoix region of Québec. Over the past century, local subpopulations have been lost; range contraction has proceeded from the south by up to 50% of historical range in some areas. Despite considerable conservation efforts, range-wide declines have continued since the last assessment in 2002, particularly in Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, and Labrador. Some populations remain poorly monitored, particularly those in the northern portion of the range. For 37 of 51 subpopulations where trend data are available, 81% are in decline, as indicated by negative population growth rates. Some of the most intensively managed subpopulations may remain critically imperiled. Reasons for decline are mainly due to increased predation and habitat loss, the latter stemming from the combination of anthropogenic (natural resource extraction) and natural (fires) disturbance. The proliferation of linear landscape features such as roads and seismic lines facilitates predation by wolves, and the conversion of mature – old conifer stands to younger seral stages promotes increases in alternate prey such as Moose and White-tailed Deer. Shifts in the northern distribution of White-tailed Deer, mediated by landscape change, also bring novel parasites into parts of the range of this population. In some regions, overhunting poses a threat to long-term conservation. Threats are closely interrelated and act cumulatively to impact this population. Population increases do not appear likely in one-third of subpopulations where disturbances exceed a threshold of viability. A >30% decline in population is projected in the near term.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The Boreal population was designated Threatened in May 2000. This newly-defined population is comprised of a portion of the de-activated "Western population" and all of the de-activated "Labrador-Ungava population". Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002 and November 2014.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

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: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Caribou

Caribou Photo 1

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Taxonomy

There is some uncertainty about how different groups of caribou are related to each other. Technological advances in genetic analysis have clarified some issues, but studies are ongoing. In the meantime, caribou are classified by ecotype (where they occur and how they behave) for their management and conservation. There are three major types of caribou in Canada: Peary, Barren-ground, and Woodland. The Caribou dawsoni subspecies, traditionally grouped with the Woodland Caribou, is extinct. Results of recent research indicate that the caribou in the Dolphin and Union herd are unique. They resemble large Peary Caribou, but appear to be more closely related genetically to Barren-ground Caribou. Peary Caribou, the smallest, lightest-coloured, and least understood of the three races, are found only on the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. They have access to a vast area of land, but only a limited portion contains suitable habitat. Barren-ground Caribou, slightly larger and darker, are found for much or all of the year on the tundra from Alaska to Baffin Island. They are by far the most abundant caribou; some herds in northern Canada number in the hundreds of thousands. They migrate seasonally, often along predictable routes, to the sparsely treed northern coniferous forests. Woodland Caribou, the largest and darkest-coloured, are irregularly distributed throughout our boreal forest and mountains from the island of Newfoundland to British Columbia. They are not migratory, but some herds, especially those in mountainous regions, move to different elevations with the seasons.

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Description

Caribou, ancient members of the deer family (Cervidae), are one of Canada’s most widely distributed large mammals. The name caribou is probably a corruption of the Micmac name “xalibu” — which means “the one who paws.” Caribou are unique among Cervids in that both sexes have antlers; however, some females have only one antler or lack them altogether. The antlers grow so rapidly that an adult male may show velvety lumps on his head in March and have a rack more than a metre in length by August. By February, all the caribou have lost their antlers. The Woodland Caribou’s coat is mostly brown in summer (more grey in winter), but the neck, mane, shoulder stripe, underbelly, underside of the tail, and patch just above each hoof are creamy white. The caribou is 1.0 to 1.2 m high at the shoulder, and mature individuals weigh 110 to 210 kg. The average weight for bulls is 180 kg; for cows, it is 135 kg. The antlers of the Woodland Caribou are flattened, complex, and compact relative to those of the Barren-ground Caribou.

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Distribution and Population

Woodland Caribou occur in five of the eight National Ecological Areas recognized by COSEWIC, and in all jurisdictions in Canada except Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nunavut. The Northern Mountain population is comprised of 36 local populations in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and northwestern British Columbia. The Southern Mountain population is made up of 26 local populations in British Columbia and 4 in Alberta. The Boreal population covers a huge area from the Mackenzie Mountains in the northwest to southern Labrador in the east and as far south as Lake Superior. In Newfoundland, the Woodland Caribou can be found in 15 natural and 22 introduced local populations — both on the main island and on islands offshore. The Atlantic-Gaspésie population in Quebec is the only caribou herd that remains south of the St. Lawrence River. It is largely restricted to the summits of Mont Albert and Mont Jacques-Cartier in Parc de la Gaspésie on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec. The Woodland Caribou Boreal population is the widest ranging — they are found in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador — and perhaps the least studied of the populations. Recent research efforts have increased the number of known populations to more than 64, and this number is expected to rise further as more individuals are radio-collared and distributions are delineated. Population surveys prior to 2002 estimate there are 33 000 forest-dwelling caribou in the Boreal population — 18% of the total for Canada. Numbers and trends for most local populations across the Boreal National Ecological Area are poorly known: low densities of caribou, large land area, and multiple jurisdictions make this task difficult. Of 52 described populations, 1 is reported as increasing, 6 as stable, 12 as decreasing, and 33 as unknown.

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Habitat

In winter, Woodland Caribou use mature and old-growth coniferous forests that contain large quantities of terrestrial and arboreal (tree-inhabiting) lichens. These forests are generally associated with marshes, bogs, lakes, and rivers. In summer, the caribou occasionally feed in young stands, after fire or logging. The average interval for habitats to return to their pre-fire state ranges from 40 to 80 years in the southern boreal forest in Alberta and Saskatchewan to 200 to 350 years in British Columbia. Many subpopulations of the Woodland Caribou Boreal population show a preference for peatlands; they generally avoid clear cuts, shrub-rich habitat, and aspen-poplar dominated sites. The most common tree species in preferred habitats are Black Spruce, White Spruce, and Tamarack.

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Biology

The caribou is well adapted to its environment. It has a compact body, small ears, and a short tail — even the muzzle is covered in short hairs to protect it from the snow and cold air. The caribou‘s coat consists of a fine crimped under-fur with a thick layer of guard hairs on top. The guard hairs are hollow (like straws), and the air trapped inside acts as insulation to keep in the caribou's body heat. Caribou are excellent swimmers, and the hollow hairs help them to be buoyant in the water as well. Caribou have large feet with four toes. In addition to two small ones, called "dew claws," they have two large, crescent-shaped toes that support most of their weight and serve as shovels when digging for food under snow. These large concave hooves offer stable support on wet, soggy ground and on crusty snow. The pads of the hoof change from a thick, fleshy shape in the summer to become hard and thin in the winter months, reducing the animal’s exposure to the cold ground. Additional winter protection comes from the long hair between the "toes"; it covers the pads so the caribou walks only on the horny rim of the hooves. The rut, or mating period, for caribou usually occurs in late September and the first half of October. Caribou cows begin breeding as early as 16 months of age; most breed annually by the time they are 28 months old, typically giving birth to a single calf the following spring (mid-May to mid-June). The males may theoretically breed at 18 to 20 months of age, but most probably have no opportunity before their third or fourth year. During the rut, males engage in frequent and furious sparring battles with their antlers. Large males with large antlers do most of the mating. To calve, females travel to isolated, relatively predator-free areas such as islands in lakes, peatlands, lakeshores, or tundra. Group size is lowest during calving and in summer; it increases before the rut and may decline or increase over the winter. Group size at all seasons is larger for forest-tundra caribou than forest-dwelling caribou. Survival rates for calves average between 30% and 50%, but can vary from almost none to 100%. Many factors interact to determine calf survival, including quality and quantity of forage (for pregnant females and in the first year of life), number of predators, and weather. The potential for very high survival means that it is possible for local populations to increase rapidly when conditions are favourable. Caribou are grazing animals and feed on whatever plant material is available. Most feeding takes place in the morning and late evening, with periods of rest at midday and midnight. Caribou are the only large mammals that are able to use lichens as a primary source of food. They have specialized bacteria and protozoa in their stomachs that efficiently digest the lichens, allowing them to take advantage of this rich food source that is available during the winter when other foods are scarce. They also have an excellent sense of smell that helps them to locate lichens beneath snow. Caribou are preyed upon by wolves, bears, coyotes, cougar, and lynx, and are hunted by people. Caribou are constantly on the move. As a result, predators and parasites cannot predict where they will be found, and lichen ranges are not overused or trampled.

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Threats

Habitat destruction, hunting, disturbance by humans (including construction of roads and pipelines), and predation (by wolves, coyotes, and bears) have all contributed to the decline of Woodland Caribou. In many parts of Woodland Caribou range, forestry practices and the spread of agriculture and mining have resulted in the loss, alteration, and fragmentation of important caribou habitat. Factors beyond our control, such as weather and climate change, are also influential. One of the current challenges in caribou management is to learn more about how these factors interact and how to decrease their threat to Woodland Caribou populations.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Woodland Caribou, Boreal population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Woodland Caribou Boreal population is found in numerous national parks, where it is protected by the Canada National Parks Act. It is also protected by the Newfoundland and Labrador Endangered Species Act, the Northwest Territories Wildlife Act, the Alberta Wildlife Act, and the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

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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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

Name Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Alberta Woodland Caribou Recovery Team

  • Dave Hervieux - Chair/Contact - Government of Alberta
    Phone: 780-538-5618  Fax: 780-538-5622  Send Email

Boreal Woodland Caribou Management Team (SK)

  • Gigi Pittoello - Chair/Contact - Government of Saskatchewan
    Phone: 306-787-2751  Send Email
  • Tim Trottier - Chair/Contact - Government of Saskatchewan
    Phone: 306-425-4237  Send Email

Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Team (BC)

  • Gerry Kuzyk - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 250-387-5842  Fax: 250-356-9145  Send Email

Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Team (NL)

  • Robert Otto - Chair/Contact - Government of NL
    Phone: 709-637-6200  Fax: 709-639-7591  Send Email
  • Isabelle Schmelzer - Chair/Contact - Government of NL
    Phone: 709-637-2051  Fax: 709-637-2004  Send Email

Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Team (ON)

  • Ted Armstrong - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 807-475-1127  Fax: 807-473-3023  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Recovery planning is taking place at both provincial/territorial and national levels to accommodate unique situations across the country. The national recovery strategy strives to identify nationally important issues and provide direction for provinces and territories as they plan and implement boreal caribou within their jurisdictions. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Caribou ranges have been mapped out in much of the boreal forest and local population trends and distribution have been inventoried. Research on limiting factors, habitat requirements of  boreal caribou, and other aspects of their ecology is underway. The combined information provides a basis for defining and initiating both national and provincial recovery actions.  Summary of Recovery Activities Governments, interest groups, and some affected industries across the boreal forest have undertaken a wide range of actions to manage and protect boreal caribou and their habitat. Forest harvesting and other industrial activities have been planned and implemented in consideration of boreal caribou habitat requirements. Development and operating guidelines have been drafted by some jurisdictions for industrial activities within caribou habitat. Hunting of boreal caribou has been closed, restricted, and/or managed either on a voluntary basis under stewardship programs or legally through regulations. Additional stewardship activities include habitat restoration, communications with aboriginal communities to foster support and acceptance of boreal caribou status and recovery, and engaging stakeholders in monitoring, management, and conservation of caribou. Educational information and communications materials on boreal caribou have been prepared and delivered to various interest groups and the general public. URLs Alberta Species at Risk Program:http://www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/fw/speciesatrisk/index.htlml Parks Canada: Jasper National Park's Woodland Caribou:http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/jasper/ne/ne8_E.asp

Hinterland Who's Who: Caribou: http://www.hww.ca/hww2.asp?id=85

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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.

40 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

  • Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada for the Period 2012 to 2017 (2017-10-31)

    The Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (also called boreal caribou) was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as threatened in June 2003 when SARA came into force. The Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population in Canada was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on October 5, 2012. The Minister of the Environment has prepared this Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation for the period 2012-2017, as per section 46 of SARA. Environment and Climate Change Canada led the development of this Progress Report. Provinces, territories, Wildlife Management Boards, Indigenous Peoples, Industry stakeholders, Environmental Non-governmental Organizations, Parks Canada and Natural Resources Canada all contributed information for this Progress Report. The recovery of this species requires unprecedented commitment, collaboration and cooperation among the various groups involved in the conservation of boreal caribou.

Conservation Agreements

  • Agreement for the Conservation and Recovery of the Woodland Caribou in Alberta (2020-10-23)

    The purpose of this agreement is to set out effective conservation and recovery measures that will be taken by the parties to support the conservation and recovery of Woodland Caribou critical habitat and local populations in Alberta. These measures include: habitat conservation and management, population management, population and habitat monitoring, and range planning. Comments also being accepted on the Alberta Environment and Parks website until October 6, 2019. --->
  • Agreement for the conservation of the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (“Woodland Caribou”) in Saskatchewan (2019-06-21)

    Under Section 11 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) can enter into conservation agreements to benefit a species at risk or enhance its survival in the wild. The agreements commit the signing parties to undertake conservation measures towards achieving short, medium, and long-term population and habitat objectives. The overarching goal of the agreement between Saskatchewan and the Government of Canada is to achieve and maintain self-sustaining populations of woodland caribou in Saskatchewan.
  • Agreement for the Conservation of the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population with Cold Lake First Nations (2020-02-10)

    Under Section 11 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) can enter into conservation agreements to benefit a species at risk or enhance its survival in the wild. The agreements commit the signing parties to undertake conservation measures towards achieving population and habitat objectives. The overarching goal of this agreement is to articulate how the Parties will collaboratively support the conservation of boreal caribou.
  • Backgrounder on the Cost-Sharing Understanding Concerning the Implementation of the Cooperation Agreement for the Protection and Recovery of Species at Risk in Quebec Applied to Boreal Caribou and its Habitat (2020-01-15)

    The purpose of this Agreement is to implement activities that promote the self-sustainability of boreal caribou populations in all ranges in Quebec, thereby contributing to the population and distribution objectives of the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada. This Agreement will also ensure the participation of Indigenous Peoples in the development and implementation of conservation actions.
  • Conservation Agreement on the Conservation of Woodland Caribou of the Boreal Population ("Boreal Caribou") in Labrador (2020-02-14)

    The overarching goal of this agreement is to articulate how the Parties will collaboratively support the recovery of boreal caribou in Labrador.
  • Woodland Caribou (Boreal population) in Northwest Territories: conservation agreement (2019-03-13)

    The overarching goal of this Agreement is to articulate the actions the Parties will take over the next five years to support the conservation and recovery of the boreal caribou population in the Northwest Territories, in line with the population and distribution objectives outlined in the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada and the conservation and recovery goal and objectives outlined in the Recovery Strategy for the Boreal Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the Northwest Territories.
  • Woodland Caribou (Boreal population) in Yukon: conservation agreement (2019-06-28)

    The overarching goal of this agreement is to articulate the actions the parties will take over the next five years to support the conservation of the boreal caribou and to maintain the self-sustaining status of boreal caribou in Yukon over the long term, in line with the population and distribution objectives, and critical habitat (Yukon NT1 range) outcomes outlined in the national recovery strategy.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Caribou Rangifer tarandus, Newfoundland population, Atlantic-Gaspésie population, Boreal population in Canada (2015-12-11)

    Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a medium-sized member of the deer family with relatively long legs and large hooves, which facilitate survival in northern environments. Caribou are central to the culture, spirituality, and subsistence lifestyles of many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across Canada. Caribou exhibit tremendous variability in morphology, ecology, and behaviour across their circumpolar range. In 2011, COSEWIC recognized 12 designatable units (DUs); this report assesses three DUs: Newfoundland population (NP; DU5); Atlantic-Gaspésie population (GP; DU11); and Boreal population (BP; DU6).
  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada (2002-05-01)

    Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are medium-sized (100-250 kg) members of the deer family. The taxonomy (classification) and systematics (evolutionary history) of caribou in Canada are uncertain. Based on mitochondrial DNA, caribou in North America evolved from two founding groups (clades) that differentiated in isolation during the last (Wisconsinan) glaciation. The southern clade supposedly evolved south of the continental ice sheet, whereas the northern clade was in a glacial refugium in Alaska and adjacent Arctic Canada. Populations that contained unique southern gene types were the Pukaskwa local population in Ontario and two in Newfoundland. In contrast, exclusively northern types occurred in four Yukon populations and in some forest-tundra and tundra ecotypes of barren-ground caribou (R. t. groenlandicus) in northern Canada. Most woodland caribou populations in the mountains of southern British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta and in the boreal forest and taiga across Canada are mixtures of the two types. Some 'mixed' populations in the taiga exhibit two phenotypes and behave like the forest-tundra ecotype of barren-ground caribou.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Caribou, Boreal population (2015-12-23)

    This population occurs at naturally low densities in mature boreal forest habitats from Labrador to Yukon, with small, isolated populations at the southern part of the range, including along the Lake Superior coastline and in the Charlevoix region of Québec. Over the past century, local subpopulations have been lost; range contraction has proceeded from the south by up to 50% of historical range in some areas. Despite considerable conservation efforts, range-wide declines have continued since the last assessment in 2002, particularly in Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, and Labrador. Some populations remain poorly monitored, particularly those in the northern portion of the range. For 37 of 51 subpopulations where trend data are available, 81% are in decline, as indicated by negative population growth rates. Some of the most intensively managed subpopulations may remain critically imperiled. Reasons for decline are mainly due to increased predation and habitat loss, the latter stemming from the combination of anthropogenic (natural resource extraction) and natural (fires) disturbance. The proliferation of linear landscape features such as roads and seismic lines facilitates predation by wolves, and the conversion of mature – old conifer stands to younger seral stages promotes increases in alternate prey such as Moose and White-tailed Deer. Shifts in the northern distribution of White-tailed Deer, mediated by landscape change, also bring novel parasites into parts of the range of this population. In some regions, overhunting poses a threat to long-term conservation. Threats are closely interrelated and act cumulatively to impact this population. Population increases do not appear likely in one-third of subpopulations where disturbances exceed a threshold of viability. A >30% decline in population is projected in the near term.
  • Response Statements - Woodland Caribou (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada (2020-12-22)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) for Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (also called boreal caribou). The Minister prepared a recovery strategy for the species in October 2012, as per section 37 of SARA, which did not include the identification of critical habitat in northern Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield range (SK1) due to a lack of data. Under section 45 of SARA, the competent Minister may amend a recovery strategy at any time. This Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada is for the purposes of: Identifying critical habitat in northern Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield range (SK1) Updating population and habitat condition information for all ranges across the country, based on previously published data; and Other minor edits to update factual information and/or to improve internal consistency within the document To the extent possible, this amended recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of Saskatchewan and directly affected Indigenous organizations, as per section 39 (1) of SARA. The final 2020 Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada replaces the 2012 Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada. A Summary report on comments received on the proposed amended recovery strategy was developed to summarize and respond to the main comments received during the public comment period.

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada: Federal Actions (2018-02-13)

    Boreal caribou is an iconic but threatened species in Canada and holds special significance for Indigenous people and other Canadians; its continued decline concerns us all. Boreal caribou is also considered by many to be an indicator of the overall state of Canada's boreal forest ecosystem. The recovery of this species requires unprecedented commitment, collaboration and cooperation among the various groups involved in the conservation of boreal caribou.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Pukaskwa National Park of Canada (2017-04-28)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Pukaskwa National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the park. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at Pukaskwa National Park (PNP).

Critical Habitat Statements

Critical Habitat Reports

  • Progress Report on Steps Taken to Protect Critical Habitat for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada (2019-06-28)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has obligations under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to report on steps taken to protect portions of critical habitat for every period of 180 days until the habitat is protected. This second report on steps taken to protect critical habitat for the boreal caribou provides a summary of steps taken that are of relevance to the protection of the species’ critical habitat and that will assist in meeting the objectives of the federal Recovery Strategy.
  • Progress report on unprotected critical habitat for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada (2018-04-30)

    The Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (also called boreal caribou) was listed on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as threatened in June 2003 when SARA came into force. This report provides a summary of protection measures that are currently in place to protect boreal caribou critical habitat under federal, provincial and territorial laws, and also provides a summary of steps taken, and being taken, to protect critical habitat by provincial, territorial and federal governments. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change has prepared this report with input and opportunity for review by provincial and territorial officials, highlighting the unprecedented commitment, collaboration and cooperation needed in the recovery of this species.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2014-2015 (2015-11-20)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species". COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 1 Endangered: 21 Threatened: 11 Special Concern: 21 Data Deficient: 1 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 56 Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#38101 & 38124), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2019-02-22)

    As part of established long-term monitoring of Boreal caribou in Southern Labrador, a scheduled population survey for the Mealy Mountain caribou herd will take place in winter 2019. This survey will be based on aerial transect and distance sampling design. Two helicopters (working separately) will fly transect lines in high, medium and low (caribou) density areas (as established from previous years of GPS collar data and previous population survey in 2012). In addition to the population survey, capture and collaring of 35 individuals (including 30 females) will take place to provide up-to-date information on population dynamics, movements, habitat use, survivorship and mortality sources, all in support of recovery planning. The primary objective of this survey is to generate a new population estimate for the Mealy Mountains herd of Boreal caribou and to determine current demographic conditions (i.e., level of recruitment). Additionally, this work will contribute to: (i) an identification of threats; (ii) ongoing monitoring of population abundance and trend; (iii) information on population vitals and dynamics; (iv) increased understanding of range delineation, movements, habitat use and group affiliations; (v) Indigenous community-based stewardship; and (vi) support efforts to protect caribou from illegal hunting pressures. This information is required as part of recovery planning, implementation and protection efforts for the population. The survey will take place in the portion of the Mealy Mountain caribou range within Akami-Uapishku - KakKasuak - Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve (AUKMMNPR) and will also include extensive adjoining areas of provincial lands covering the full geographic extent of the herd's range. Components of this project will involve capture and harassment to individuals of Boreal caribou, listed as Threatened under SARA.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#42603), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2020-03-13)

    As part of established long-term monitoring of Boreal caribou in Southern Labrador, annual spring classification surveys will be carried out from 2020 through 2023. During classification surveys, collared caribou will be located via homing from a helicopter, and then group size and calf to adult female ratios will be assessed from a single, low level overflight of the group. In addition to the population survey, capture and collaring will be carried out each spring with the goal of maintaining a sample of 35 collared individuals (including 30 females). In 2020 it is anticipated that this will include collaring of 6-10 caribou in Akami-Uapishku - KakKasuak - Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve (AUKMMNPR), and likely a similar number each year thereafter. This will provide up-to-date information on population dynamics, movements, habitat use, survivorship and mortality sources, all in support of recovery planning. The primary objective of this classification surveys is to monitor the annual level of recruitment. Additionally, this work will contribute to: (i) an identification of threats; (ii) ongoing monitoring of population abundance and trend; (iii) information on population vital rates and dynamics; (iv) increased understanding of range delineation, movements, habitat use and group affiliations; (v) Indigenous community-based stewardship; and (vi) support efforts to protect caribou from illegal hunting pressures. This information is required as part of recovery planning, implementation and protection efforts for the population. The research will include the portion of the Mealy Mountain caribou range within Akami-Uapishku - KakKasuak - Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve (AUKMMNPR) as well as extensive adjoining areas of provincial lands covering the full geographic extent of the herd's range. Components of this project will involve capture and harassment to individuals of Boreal caribou, listed as Threatened under SARA.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#741), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2005-01-01)

    The conservation of woodland caribou requires land management strategies that not only maintain caribou habitat but also maintain connectivity among habitats to facilitate movement of caribou throughout a landscape (O'Brien et al. 2003). Research is required to resolve what constitutes high quality woodland caribou habitat in the mid-boreal uplands ecoregion. In addition, movement cost parameters require further investigation. Both subjects require fine-scale data that can be obtained using GPS collars and field work. Up to 20 GPS collars will be deployed or replaced on woodland caribou in the Greater Ecosystem of Prince Albert National Park each year, starting in January 2005. The caribou will be "captured" using net gunning. This permit concerns the portion of the research that will take place in Prince Albert National Park of Canada. Data will be collected for three years. Collar batteries will have to be changed each year, which will require the recapture of the animals.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PNP-2018-01), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-01-12)

    The emergency release and recapture of up to 4 caribou will only occur in Pukaskwa National Park as a result of an emergency situation during the translocation flight from Michipicoten Island to the Slate Islands (e.g. helicopter mechanical failure, unforeseen unsafe weather), with no other alternatives. Due to the emergency nature of this activity, the release site will be determined in flight by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) but will be restricted to nearshore islands (e.g. Otter Island) and coastal areas (i.e. within 5 km of the Lake Superior coast). The recapture sites will be dependent on the movements of the released caribou and potential sites include the whole of Pukaskwa National Park. Any released caribou will be individually marked (e.g. collar, ear tag). The OMNRF will recapture the animals as soon as it is safe to do so, preferably within a few days, and translocate them to the Slate Islands.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PNP-2018-27437), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-03-05)

    A caribou aerial survey will occur along a 130 km stretch of the hydro right-of-way, from the northern end of Pukaskwa National Park to just east of Wawa (see attached map). In total, 56 transects perpendicular to the hydro right-of-way are planned, of which 25 traverse Pukaskwa National Park. Transects extend 10 km on either side of the right-of-way. Surveys will be flown by helicopter at an altitude of 100 to 200 m. When caribou are spotted, the helicopter will circle the animal(s) to determine, if possible, the age class and sex of the animals. Based on previous surveys, the caribou are likely to scatter.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#WB-2017-25366), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2017-07-31)

    The activities occurring within Wood Buffalo National Park are occurring as part of a larger South Slave Boreal Caribou and Wolf Monitoring Program, conducted by the Government of the Northwest Territories. The activity requiring authorization is the collection of biological samples from carcasses of any collared boreal caribou that die within Wood Buffalo National Park in order to investigate and determine (where possible) the cause of death.

Consultation Documents

Policies and Guidelines

  • Range Plan Guidance for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population (2016-09-19)

    This document is one of a suite of Species at Risk Act (SARA) policies and guidelines developed to support predictable, clear, and consistent implementation of the Act. These guidelines address key areas of the SARA cycle. They are designed to provide clarity for jurisdictions, Indigenous organizations and communities, and stakeholders on the requirements of the Act and to clarify how the Government of Canada or Environment and Climate Change Canada meets its obligations under SARA.

Factsheet

  • The Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy - Summary Fact Sheet (2013-03-26)

    The Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (“boreal caribou”) is listed as a threatened species under the Species at Risk Act. The final recovery strategy for boreal caribou was published on the Species at Risk Public Registry on October 5, 2012. This fact sheet provides an overview of the boreal caribou recovery strategy, including information on the population and distribution objectives, identification of critical habitat, and the next steps in boreal caribou recovery.

Related Information

  • Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Summary Reports on Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population (2011-09-19)

    This report is a compilation of the Aboriginal traditional knowledge summary reports that Environment Canada received across the country without alteration or interpretation. Where Aboriginal groups/organizations did not want their information represented in this public compilation report, an acknowledgement page has been inserted to recognize the work and contributions of those knowledge holders. The Aboriginal traditional knowledge present in these summary reports was gathered for the purposes of boreal caribou recovery.
  • Boreal caribou science to inform recovery – science summary sheet #1 (2019-06-28)

    This summary document is the first in a series of Science Summary Sheets in preparation with the goal of communicating the scientific work undertaken by Environment and Climate Change Canada and its partners to inform the recovery of the Boreal population of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada. The summary outlines the results of a national meta-analysis that investigated the relationship between calf recruitment and a range of predictor variables hypothesized to influence boreal caribou population dynamics as part of the 2011 Scientific Assessment. The recruitment-disturbance relationship derived from this work was a critical component of the tool developed for quantifying the capacity of a range to maintain a self-sustaining caribou population based on habitat condition described in the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population in Canada. The summary also describes more recent work that explores a key knowledge gap identified in the Schedule of Studies in the 2012 Recovery Strategy regarding the need to further investigate the applicability of the disturbance model in Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield range (SK1). For further information, please consult the comprehensive 2011 Scientific Assessment, the 2012 Recovery Strategy, and the 2019 proposed Amended Recovery Strategy for the species (see links below).
  • Defining Habitat Restoration for Boreal Caribou in the Context of National Recovery: A Discussion Paper (2016-01-08)

    Note: This discussion paper was prepared by Dr. Justina Ray under contract to Environment and Climate Change Canada. The views expressed in this discussion paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Environment and Climate Change Canada or the Government of Canada.
  • Enhanced Analysis to Support Regional Caribou Range Planning and Action Planning (2016-08-04)

    This document describes new science work that will be led by the Science and Technology Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), in collaboration with the Canadian Wildlife Service (ECCC) and Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). In 2011, Environment and Climate Change Canada released a scientific assessment that evaluated the contribution of natural (fire) and human (industrial) disturbance to range condition, and the likelihood of varying range conditions supporting self-sustaining boreal caribou populations. This project aims to enhance understanding of the relationship between disturbance and boreal caribou population response to inform range and action planning. This project will not change the identification of critical habitat in the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada; rather the objective is to provide additional guidance on the best management actions to implement on the ground to provide the greatest impact for boreal caribou.
  • Public Notice on the Minister of the Environment's Reconsideration of the Emergency Order for Boreal Caribou (2012-03-08)

    On January 13, 2012, as directed by the Federal Court, the Minister of the Environment reconsidered his decision in respect of whether there is an imminent threat to the survival or recovery of the boreal caribou. The Minister's initial decision had been set aside by the Federal Court on July 28, 2011, and the matter returned to him for reconsideration.
  • Scientific Assessment to Inform the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada: 2011 update (2011-08-26)

    This report describes work undertaken to inform the identification of critical habitat for the Boreal Population of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada, as part of the requirement for preparation of a National Recovery Strategy for this species under the federal Species at Risk Act. For Your Information The appendices for the Scientific Assessment to inform the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada: 2011 update are available from Environment Canada These appendices support the full scientific report which describes work undertaken to inform the identification of critical habitat for the Boreal Population of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada, as part of the requirement for preparation of a National Recovery Strategy for this species under the federal Species at Risk Act. The report is available on the Public Registry Web site and the appendices in pdf format can be requested via email. Recovery Planning Environment Canada 4th Floor, Place Vincent Massey 351 St.Joseph blvd. Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3 Send e-mail
  • Scientific Review for the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada (2009-04-09)

    The “Scientific Review for the Identification of Critical Habitat for Woodland Caribou, Boreal Population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada” was initiated to inform the development of a recovery strategy for this population of caribou. Please submit comments by June 8, 2009.
  • Summary Report on Comments Received on the Proposed Action Plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada: Federal Actions (2018-02-13)

    The proposed “Action Plan for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada - Federal Actions” was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on July 27, 2017 for a 60-day public comment period that ended on September 25, 2017. In total, over 80 written comments were received from provinces and territories, Wildlife Management Boards, Indigenous peoples, municipal governments, stakeholders, and individual Canadians. This document summarizes the main themes of comments received and changes made to the proposed action plan prior to its finalization and posting on the Species at Risk Public Registry on February 13, 2018.
  • Summary Report on Comments Received on the Proposed Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada (2020-12-22)

    The proposed Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on June 28, 2019, for a 60-day public comment period that ended on August 27, 2019. During the public consultation period, five written comments were received, one from an Indigenous organization and four from industry stakeholders. This document summarizes the engagement process, comments received, and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s response to those comments. The final amended recovery strategy was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on December 22, 2020.
  • What People Have Said on the Proposed Recovery Strategy for Boreal Caribou (2013-03-26)

    The proposed recovery strategy for Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (“boreal caribou”) was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry on August 26, 2011 for an extended comment period that ended February 22, 2012. 19,046 comments were received from Aboriginal communities and organizations, government, industry stakeholders, environmental non-governmental organizations, academia, and the public. This document summarizes the engagement process, comments received, and changes made to the proposed recovery strategy prior to its finalization and posting on the Species at Risk Public Registry on October 5, 2012.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Critical Habitat Orders

  • Critical Habitat of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) Boreal Population Order (2019-06-26)

    The boreal population of the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) is commonly called boreal caribou. Like all Woodland Caribou, boreal caribou are a medium-sized member of the deer family. Boreal caribou are distributed across Canada, occurring in seven provinces and two territories and extending from the northeast corner of Yukon east to Labrador, and south to Lake Superior in Ontario.
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