Woodland Caribou in Peril, Ontario Warned

Woodland caribou are among the first species to be actively protected under Ontario’s new Endangered Species Act.

But in a report released today by the Wildlands League, the group reveals that critical habitats for six caribou populations have already been disturbed by logging and wildfires to the point where they likely will no longer sustain the extremely sensitive species.

From the Toronto Star:

The Ontario government should halt all logging and road building in endangered woodland
caribou habitat, as six out of nine known populations below the 51st parallel are at risk of collapsing, environmentalists warn…

…”We’ve always suspected trouble. We didn’t realize it was this bad,” says Anna Baggio, director of conservation with the Wildlands League, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society…

Woodland caribou are among the first species to be actively protected under Ontario’s new Endangered Species Act. But the government is still developing its conservation plan and has not yet introduced habitat legislation for it that would lay out specifically where development could and could not occur. In the meantime, the province continues to issue logging permits.

The caribou are considered an indicator species, reflecting the health of the boreal forest. They thrive only in untouched forest, roaming vast distances in solitude and feeding on lichen. They are extremely sensitive to development, as roads invariably bring predators, such as wolves. Once roaming as far south as Algonquin Park, their numbers have been cut in half over the past century.

On a national level, COSEWIC lists Woodland Caribou as threatened overall and specifically, four populations at risk: Atlantic-Gaspésie, Boreal, Southern Mountain (BC, AB) and Northern Mountain (YK, NT, BC).
We engaged the government in negotiations to develop a scientific review for the identification of critical habitat for the boreal population of woodland caribou. In April 2009, a robust, science-based review was released that recommended critical habitat for the caribou. The science in this report should provide government, industry and conservationists with the tools needed to ensure the persistence of boreal woodland caribou populations in Canada.