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COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Caribou Rangifer tarandus, Newfoundland population, Atlantic-Gaspésie population, Boreal population in Canada - 2014

Caribou
Three photos of the Caribou
Top photo: Newfoundland Caribou - Photo credit: Mahoney, S. P. Centre photo: Gaspésie Caribou - Photo credit: Federal Recovery Plan. Bottom photo: Boreal Caribou - Photo credit: Gilles Duchesne.

 

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Document Information

COSEWIC
Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife
in Canada

COSEWIC logo

COSEPAC
Comité sur la situation
des espèces en péril
au Cananda

COSEWIC status reports are working documents used in assigning the status of wildlife species suspected of being at risk. This report may be cited as follows:

COSEWIC. 2014. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Caribou Rangifer tarandus, Newfoundland population, Atlantic-Gaspésie population and Boreal population, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xxiii + 128 pp.

Previous report(s):

COSEWIC. 2004. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Caribou Rangifer tarandus, Northern Mountain population, Central Mountain population and Southern Mountain population in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xxii + 113 pp.

Previous report(s):

COSEWIC. 2002. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xi + 98 pp.

Thomas, D.C., and D.R. Gray. 2002. Update COSEWIC status report on the woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada, in COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Woodland Caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. 1-98 pp.

Kelsall, J.P. 1984. COSEWIC status report on the woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. 103 pp.

Production note:

COSEWIC would like to acknowledge Serge Couturier, Liv S. Vors and Issac Hébert for writing the status report on Caribou (Rangifer tarandus): Newfoundland population, Atlantic-Gaspésie population, and Boreal population in Canada, prepared under contract with Environment Canada. This status report was overseen and edited by Graham Forbes, Co-chair of the COSEWIC Terrestrial Mammals Specialist Subcommittee.

For additional copies contact:

COSEWIC Secretariat
c/o Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0H3

Tel.: 819-938-4125
Fax: 819-938-3984
E-mail: COSEWIC/COSEPAC@ec.gc.ca
Website: COSEWIC

Également disponible en français sous le titre Évaluation et Rapport de situation du COSEPAC sur le Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), population de Terre-Neuve, population de la Gaspésie-Atlantique et population boréale, au Canada.

Cover illustration/photo:

Caribou -- Top photo: Newfoundland Caribou - Photo credit: Mahoney, S. P. Centre photo: Gaspésie Caribou - Photo credit: Federal Recovery Plan. Bottom photo: Boreal Caribou - Photo credit: Gilles Duchesne.

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COSEWIC Assessment Summary

Assessment Summary – November 2014

Common name
Caribou - Newfoundland population
Scientific name
Rangifer tarandus
Status
Special Concern
Reason for designation
This population was last assessed as Not at Risk in 2002 when the population was 85,000. This population has fluctuated in abundance over the last 100 years and presently has declined by approximately 60% over the last 3 caribou generations. The decline was due to limited forage when the population was at high density, harvest, and predation. Various indices suggest that the population is improving but there is concern that Eastern Coyote, which has recently arrived to Newfoundland, may become a significant predator and influence recruitment such that the population continues to decline.
Occurrence
Newfoundland and Labrador
Status history
Newfoundland population was designated Not at Risk in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and in May 2002. Status re-examined and designated Special Concern in November 2014.

Assessment Summary – November 2014

Common name
Caribou - Atlantic-Gaspésie population
Scientific name
Rangifer tarandus
Status
Endangered
Reason for designation
This small isolated population has declined to fewer than 120 adults. Historically, these caribou were much more widely spread, occurring in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Today, they mainly use alpine habitats on mountain plateaus in the Gaspésie region, in Quebec. Habitat has been modified by resource development, including forest management that reduced forest age, and increased density of predators of caribou. Adult mortality and continued low calf recruitment due to Eastern Coyote and Black Bear predation are contributing to an ongoing decline. Population models predict the population may become extinct by 2056.
Occurrence
Quebec
Status history
Atlantic-Gaspésie population designated Threatened in April 1984. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2000.Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002 and November 2014.

Assessment Summary – November 2014

Common name
Caribou - Boreal population
Scientific name
Rangifer tarandus
Status
Threatened
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.
Occurrence
Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador
Status history
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.

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COSEWIC Executive Summary

Caribou Rangifer tarandus Newfoundland population, Atlantic-Gaspésie population, Boreal population

Wildlife Species Description and Significance

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).

Distribution

In NP, about 14 sub-populations are presently recognized, and Caribou can still be found in most of their former range. The GP is the only Caribou population south of the St-Lawrence River. It is now found primarily in the McGerrigle/Chic-Chocs Mountains in the Gaspésie Peninsula, QC, and the majority live within Gaspésie National Park. The BP have been extirpated from about half of their historic range in Canada in the last 150 years. They presently occur from southern Labrador to eastern Yukon, generally south of the northern treeline of the boreal forest. Northward range recessions have been observed in most provinces and have led to isolation and fragmentation of sub-populations in some regions.

Habitat

NP Caribou use coniferous forests, barren lands, shrub lands, and wetland complexes. The GP uses alpine habitat on mountain plateaus > 700 m asl and mature Balsam Fir and spruce forests found on mountain slopes. The alpine habitats are important for the GP throughout the year. BP Caribou will use younger forest and hardwood stands if imbedded in coniferous forest, but primarily use mature or old stands of Black Spruce and Jack Pine, peatlands, bogs, and fens. Shorelines and islands in large lakes are used during calving to provide spatial separation from predators. Habitat avoidance for BP is primarily based on minimizing predation risk, which can be associated with anthropogenic disturbance, and secondarily by forage availability. Selection of closed-canopy conifer forests by Caribou generally becomes stronger with increasing disturbance levels. Anthropogenic disturbance tends to lead to the functional loss of residual habitat.

Biology

Typical longevity in Caribou is < 10 years in males and < 15 years in females. Females ≥ 3 years old give birth to a single calf annually, resulting in an overall lower reproductive rate when compared to other North American deer species. Generation time is estimated at 6 years. Reproductive success is closely linked to forage availability.

Population Size and Trends

The NP has experienced dramatic fluctuations, at least since the early 1900s; after a peak estimate of 100,000 individuals in the 1900s, the population declined approximately 85% to 10,000-15,000 individuals between 1925 and 1935, then increased approximately 84% over four decades, and reached 94,000 individuals by the mid-1990s. By 2002, the NP declined to 68,000 individuals, and continued to decline, to approximately 32,000 in 2013. The three generation (18 year; 1996-2013) trend is – 62%. The decline is believed to be due to limited forage that reduced juvenile productivity and survival, excessive hunting during the decline phase and, possibly, additive predation. The present decline appears to be part of natural population fluctuations and recently several indices on health and calf survival suggest that the population will increase.

The population of the GP fluctuates but there has been a general decline in the number of mature animals since the 1950s. The GP was first estimated between 700 and 1,500 individuals (of all ages) in the 1950s. Improved survey methods began in 1983. From 1983-2013, the population declined from an estimated 274 (219 mature animals) in 1983 to 130 (112 mature) in 2013 (- 49% change in mature animals). Fluctuations occur due to natural factors and predator control, which increases juvenile survival. The highest population level in the last 30 years was 219 mature animals (1983) and lowest is 65 (2012). The three generation decline is 25%, but varies greatly depending on any 18-year period used.

Caribou in the BP are difficult to survey because they live in small groups within large areas under forest cover. Population estimates over time are unavailable in most regions. The 2002 COSEWIC assessment estimated 33,000 animals and the 2012 National Recovery Strategy estimated 34,000 animals (including calves). However, the values are very crude and detailed surveys and disturbance levels in separate ranges indicate declines in much of the southern 1/3 of the DU range and population. Fifty population ranges were assessed based on probability of persistence associated with anthropogenic and natural disturbance levels. Fourteen ranges (65% of the total DU range; or 59%, based on Ontario’s reassessment) were considered to be ‘self-sustaining’ (i.e. viable). Thirty-five percent of DU area and 32% of the population are considered not, or possibly not, self-sustaining. Most (81%) of the 37 sub-populations with finite growth rate (Lambda) data since 1996, which represents > 90% of DU range, are negative (mean Lambda = 0.96). A mean Lambda of 0.92 for 11 sub-populations over 3 – 18 years resulted in a 57% decline in Alberta. A Lambda < 0.9 equates to 50% decline in 7 years. An ongoing decline of >30% of the BP is inferred. Caribou populations fluctuate over time but it is doubtful that populations will increase in the approximately 35% of the range and 32% of the population where disturbance levels are at, or below, the disturbance thresholds for sustainability. The threats assessment also suggests that these populations will not increase.

Threats and Limiting Factors

The primary threat to Caribou persistence is habitat loss and excessive mortality rates, factors which often interact because predation increases in disturbed areas. Cumulative anthropogenic (e.g. natural resource extraction and development, roads), and natural disturbances (e.g. forest fire, blowdown) are associated with avoidance behaviour, and decreased recruitment because of increased predation rates. Forest-clearing activities (e.g. forestry, oil and gas development) increases the abundance of alternate prey (e.g. Moose, deer), which can cause increased mortality rates on Caribou. Predation is considered a major proximate threat to Caribou in developed regions of the BP, and in all of GP, and of unknown, but likely lower, significance in the NP. In NP, disturbance appears less significant because fires are rare and much of the range has relatively minimal forestry or mining activity. Throughout the BP distribution, the levels of anthropogenic disturbance indicates that ranges are not self-sustaining, without intervention, across much of the southern half of BP range. Parts of BP range in their northern distribution in NT, Ontario, Québec, and Labrador are disturbed by fire, but are currently relatively less affected by anthropogenic disturbance. A large area in the NT range was burned in 2014 and the range quality has decreased and needs to be assessed. Relatively less is known about the BP in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In some regions, overhunting poses a threat for long-term conservation. In GP, increased predation rates are believed to be related to anthropogenic disturbance in areas adjacent to the GP. Recreational activities (e.g., snowmobiling, hiking, skiing and cabins) are a concern in parts of each DU range, and of particular concern in the small isolated GP. Natural factors, such as climate change and environmental disturbance, can impact Caribou habitat. The NP, BP, and GP are all associated to varying extents with mature - old coniferous stands, which are subject to fire events that are likely to increase in the future, particularly in the BP range. Disease impacts are less well known but there are concerns over spread of brainworm in parts of BP range and several pathogens in BP and GP range.

A threats assessment concluded that the overall threat is High-Medium for the NP, Very High-Very High for the GP, and Very High-High for the BP.

Protection, Status, and Ranks

COSEWIC assessed the conservation status of NP in 1984, 2000, and 2002, and recommended that this population was Not at Risk. The NP was ranked as S4 in 2012 at the provincial level. In NP, large areas exist which are of marginal timber value and are not in imminent danger of being disturbed by industrial activity. The GP was designated as Threatened in 1984 and re-examined and uplisted to Endangered in 2002. The status for GP in Québec is threatened (note: this is the highest category of endangerment). Nature Serve labelled GP as critically imperilled (N1). Most of the GP range is contained within Gaspésie Park and in the Matane and Chic-Chocs Wildlife Reserves. The BP was first assessed in 2000 by COSEWIC and listed under SARA as Threatened, which was reconfirmed in 2002. Boreal Caribou are listed as Vulnerable (near-equivalent to ‘Threatened’ in COSEWIC) in Québec, Threatened in Labrador, Ontario, and NT, and Threatened in Manitoba. Boreal Caribou are Red-listed in BC, and Not at Risk in Yukon, and Saskatchewan. The Nature Serve rank is N4 (2011) nationally, and ranks at the provincial scale range from S1 to S4. Forest management plans have been modified to assist Caribou in parts of all three DUs, but implementation is variable and efficacy unknown to date. Predator control has been applied annually since 2001 in the GP, and in parts of the BP. In the NP, hunting of Black Bear and Coyote occurs but direct predator control is not applied.

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Technical Summary - Newfoundland population

Scientific Name:
Rangifer tarandus
English Name:
Caribou
French Name:
Caribou
Population:
Newfoundland population
Population de Terre-Neuve
Range of occurrence:
Newfoundland & Labrador

Demographic Information

  • Generation time (Using life table parameters, generation length was estimated at 6.2 years for the NP and rounded off to 6 years).

    • 6 years
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of mature individuals?

    9% annual decline from 2000-2006, and 5% since 2007.

    • Yes
  • Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within 2 generations (12 years; 2001-2013).

    Estimate of 68880 mature Caribou in 2001, and 28241 in 2013, based on calf recruitment rates.

    • 58%
  • Estimated percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the last 3 generations (18 years; 1995-2013).

    Estimate of 74912 mature Caribou in 1995, and 28241 in 2013.

    • 62%
  • Projected percent reduction or increase in total number of mature individuals over the next 3 generations (18 years).

    Population Viability Analysis (PVA) estimated that if conditions remain unchanged, the NP will decline at a mean annual rate of 5.1% from 2011 to 2030. If hunting is stopped, the NP will decline at -3.5%. If calf survival increases to 49%, PVA predicted that population will increased by 2.9% per year.

    • 62%
  • [Observed, estimated, inferred or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over any [10 years, or 3 generations] period, over a time period including both the past and the future.

    A population model including, among other things, data on catches of Belugas between 1913 and 1960, indicated that there were 1440 mature individuals in 1937 (3 generations of 26 years) and 2163 mature individuals in 1925 (3 generations of 30 years). Assuming 583 mature individuals in 2012 and with a future decline expected, this means that a 60% to 82% decline in mature individuals can be inferred over a 3-generation time period (78-90 years) including both the past and the future.

    • -5.1% per year (status quo) -3.5% per year (no hunting) +2.9% per year (increased calf survival)
  • Percent increase in total number of mature individuals over any 3 generations (18 years) period, over a time period including both the past and the future.

    Observed declines of 58% in last 2 generations could improve or worsen in next generation, depending upon management (see above)

    • Unknown
  • Are the causes of the decline clearly reversible, understood, and ceased?

    Causes of the decline understood and possible additive predation likely ceased. The proximal cause is related to calf predation while density-dependence may have been the ultimate factor. Population decline was exacerbated by a delay in hunting reduction. Population is showing signs of recovery from density-dependence effects.

    • Likely
  • Are there extreme (i.e., >10X) fluctuations in number of mature individuals?

    Decline occurred in the early 1900s and Caribou persisted at low densities before increasing from 16589 to 68880 during 1975-1993 (4.15X), then declining to 28241 in 2013 (- 2.44X).

    • No

Extent and Occupancy Information

  • Estimated extent of occurrence

    Caribou can be found in a large portion of the island.

    • 112,000 km2
  • Index of area of occupancy (IAO, Always report 2x2 grid value)

    44,781 km2

  • Is the population severely fragmented?

    Some sub-populations are relatively isolated but most of the population is in close proximity and movement corridors exist for parts of the range

    • No
  • Number of locations*

    About 14 subpopulations (native and relocated) exist on the island of Newfoundland. Possible exchange exists between most of these sub-populations but no single threat impacts all sub-populations equally.

    • >14
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in extent of occurrence?

    The distribution of Caribou has shifted through time. Many sub-populations have been introduced and this has artificially increased the extent of occurrence.

    • Unknown, but probably limited in scale
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in index of area of occupancy?

    See previous comments.

    • Unknown, but probably limited in scale
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of populations?

    Not in the last decade.

    • No
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of locations?

    • No
  • IIs there an observed continuing decline in extent and/or quality of habitat?

    Human footprint in the NP range is relatively low compared to BP and GP; forest harvesting has decreased in recent years. Many Caribou are not dependent upon mature forests that may be cut. Impact of Coyote predation not apparent but of concern.

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of populations?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy?

    • No

Number of Mature Individuals (in each population)

  • Population:

    N Mature Individuals

    • Total: Est. 28241

    NP population estimated at 31,980 caribou in 2013. Mature population estimated at 28,241, using mean calf recruitment values from 2003-2011.

Quantitative Analysis

  • Probability of extinction in the wild is at least 20% within 5 generations (30 years).

    Population Viability Analysis (PVA) indicates decline by 90% is possible if recruitment is low, but the probability of extinction by 2030 was zero under all three scenarios.

    • No

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats)

Current:
Direct and functional loss of habitat due to disturbances from resource extraction activities is possible though lack of Wolves likely limits the impact of anthropogenic disturbance.
Imminent:
Increased levels of predation is a concern if Coyote populations increase. Wolves may establish, but are not likely.

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)

  • Status of outside population(s)?

    The DU only exists within Canada

    • n/a
  • Is immigration known or possible?

    • n/a
  • Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is rescue from outside populations likely?

    • n/a

Data-Sensitive Species

  • Is this a data-sensitive species?
    • No

Status History

  • COSEWIC: Newfoundland population was designated Not at Risk in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and in May 2002. Status re-examined and designated Special Concern in November 2014.

Status and Reasons for Designation:

Status:
Special Concern
Alpha-numeric code:
Not applicable
Reasons for designation:
This population was last assessed as Not at Risk in 2002 when the population was 85,000. This population has fluctuated in abundance over the last 100 years and presently has declined by approximately 60% over the last 3 caribou generations. The decline was due to limited forage when the population was at high density, harvest, and predation. Various indices suggest that the population is improving but there is concern that Eastern Coyote, which has recently arrived on Newfoundland, may become a significant predator and influence recruitment such that the population continues to decline.

Applicability of Criteria

Criterion A (Decline in Total Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable. Recent declines may be associated with natural fluctuations, which do not qualify under IUCN guidelines
Criterion B (Small Distribution Range and Decline or Fluctuation):
Not applicable. EO, IAO, and number of locations exceed criteria thresholds.
Criterion C (Small and Declining Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable. Population of mature animals exceeds criterion threshold.
Criterion D (Very Small or Restricted Population):
Not applicable. Population exceeds criterion threshold.
Criterion E(Quantitative Analysis):
Not applicable. A PVA identified decline but not extinction. Outcome is strongly dependent on recruitment rates, which can change due to management actions.

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Technical Summary - Atlantic-Gaspésie population

Scientific Name:
Rangifer tarandus
English Name:
Caribou
French Name:
Caribou
Population:
Atlantic-Gaspésie population
Population de la Gaspésie-Atlantique
Range of occurrence:
Québec

Demographic Information

  • Generation time

    No age data are available for GP, therefore the average age of the Newfoundland population is used.

    • 6 years
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of mature individuals?

    • Yes
  • Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within 2 generations (12 years; 2001-2013).

    The 12-year trend (2001-2013) = +13% but the value varies in a fluctuating population, depending on any 12-year period used. Therefore, an average 12-year period decline was determined from 5, 12-year periods within 1997 – 2013. There has been a 49% decline since 1983 (30 years).

    • Average of 10% for 5, 12-year periods (range +1 to -47%)
  • Observed percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the last 3 generations (18 years; 1996-2013).

    The 18-year trend (1996-2013) = -25% but the value varies in a fluctuating population, depending on year used. Therefore, an average 12-year period decline was determined from 5, 18-year periods within 1991-2013. There has been a 49% decline since 1983 (30 years).

    • Average of 11% for 5, 18-year periods (range +15 to -34%)
  • Projected percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the next 3 generations (18 years; 2013-2031).

    Potentially extirpated in 21 yrs (2034) if calf mortality remains at average rates.

    • Unknown
  • [Observed and predicted percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over any 3 generations (18 years) period, over a time period including both the past and the future.

    Management actions may influence calf survival.

    • Unknown
  • Are the causes of the decline clearly reversible and understood and ceased?

    Decline due to habitat loss and predation, which have lessened due to management, but continue to be a threat.

    • No
  • Are there extreme (i.e., > 10X) fluctuations in number of mature individuals?

    Population does oscillate by 30-60%.

    • No

Extent and Occupancy Information

  • Estimated extent of occurrence

    • About 1500 km2
  • Index of area of occupancy (IAO) (Always report 2x2 grid value).

    <1000 km2

  • Is the population severely fragmented?

    Since 1975, no evidence of tagged caribou moving between the three summit sub-populations

    • Likely
  • Number of locations*

    The GP is composed of three sub-populations which experience different predation, recreation, and adjacent land use impacts.

    • 3
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in extent of occurrence?

    • No
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in index of area of occupancy?

    • No
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of populations?

    • No
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of locations?

    • No
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in extent and/or quality of habitat?

    Forest harvest and roads in area facilitated increased density of prey for Coyote and Black Bear, which results in lower calf recruitment. Anthropogenic disturbance levels (75%) continue to exceed sustainability threshold (35%) but new forest regulations and predator control should lessen impact of predators

    • Yes
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of populations?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations*?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy?

    • No

Number of Mature Individuals (in each population)

  • Population:

    N Mature Individuals

    • Total: Est. 112

    In 2012 and 2013, the population of mature Caribou was estimated at 65 and 112 animals, respectively.

Quantitative Analysis

  • Probability of extinction in the wild is at least 20% within 5 generations (30 years).

    Population Viability Analysis estimated that if calf recruitment remains at the mean level observed from 2009 to 2011, the average time to extirpation is 20.5 years and all simulation models predict extinction by 2056.

    • Yes

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats)

Habitat loss and predation by Coyotes and Black Bears are the main threa ts to the persistence of the GP. Predators are supported by habitat alteration, mainly from logging, that occurs outside the park. Wind energy farms are a concern.

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)

  • Status of outside population(s)?

    The DU only exists within Canada

    • n/a
  • Is immigration known or possible?

    • n/a
  • Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is rescue from outside populations likely?

    • n/a

Data-Sensitive Species

  • Is this a data-sensitive species?
    • No

Status History

  • COSEWIC: Atlantic-Gaspésie population designated Threatened in April 1984. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in May 2000. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002 and November 2014.

Status and Reasons for Designation:

Status:
Endangered
Alpha-numeric code:
B1ab(iii,v); C2a(i); D1; E
Reasons for designation:
This small isolated population has declined to fewer than 120 adults. Historically, these caribou were much more widely spread, occurring in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Today, they mainly use alpine habitats on mountain plateaus in the Gaspésie region, in Quebec. Habitat has been modified by resource development, including forest management that reduced forest age, and increased density of predators of caribou. Adult mortality and continued low calf recruitment due to Eastern Coyote and Black Bear predation are contributing to an ongoing decline. Population models predict the population may become extinct by 2056.

Applicability of Criteria

Criterion A (Decline in Total Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable; Although there is a decline of 49% over a 30-year period, the averaged decline over 3 generations (11%) is above criterion threshold.
Criterion B (Small Distribution Range and Decline or Fluctuation):
Meets B1ab(iii,v) Endangered: Extent of occurrence (1500 km²) is below threshold for Endangered (5000 km²) and population exists in < 5 locations wherein habitat is projected to decline and number of mature individuals is declining.
Criterion C (Small and Declining Number of Mature Individuals):
Meets C2a(i) Endangered: Total population (112) is below threshold for Endangered (250) and population is declining.
Criterion D (Very Small or Restricted Population):
Meets D1 Endangered: Population (112) is below threshold for Endangered (250 mature animals).
Criterion E(Quantitative Analysis):
PVA indicted high probability of extirpation by 2056 dependent on the extent of management activities (e.g. predator control) that affect recruitment.

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Technical Summary - Boreal population

Scientific Name:
Rangifer tarandus
English Name:
Caribou
French Name:
Caribou
Population:
Boreal population
Population boréale
Range of occurrence:
Newfoundland & Labrador, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories (extending slightly into the Yukon)

Demographic Information

  • Generation time

    No age data are available for BP, therefore the average age of the Newfoundland population is used.

    • 6 years
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in number of mature individuals?

    Past population size is not known well enough for most of total range but declines have been recorded in parts of the range. Inferred decline is based on disturbance and probability of decline; of 50 Boreal Caribou ranges assessed, the Federal Recovery Strategy reported that 35% of BP area, and 32% of the population were not, or possibly not, self-sustaining. Population growth rates exist for 37 sub-populations, covering >90% of the range; 81% of which had negative finite growth rates.

    • Yes
  • Estimated percent of continuing decline in total number of mature individuals within 2 generations (12 years; 2001-2013).

    See above

    • Unknown; declining in one-third of range
  • Suspected percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the next 3 generations (18 years).

    See above

    • Unknown; declining in one-third of range
  • Suspected percent reduction in total number of mature individuals over the next 3 generations (18 years).

    Based on observed declines, expected declines associated with negative Lambda values from 81% of 37 sub-populations, and that the majority of ranges are not, or possibly not self-sustaining suggests declines that have occurred in recent years will continue into the future.

    • >30%
  • [Observed, estimated, inferred, or suspected] percent [reduction or increase] in total number of mature individuals over any 3 generations (18 years) period, over a time period including both the past and the future.

    Based on observed declines, expected declines associated with negative Lambda values from 81% of 37 sub-populations, and that the majority of ranges are not, or possibly not self-sustaining suggests declines that have occurred in recent years will continue into the future.

    • >30%
  • Are the causes of the decline clearly reversible and understood and ceased?

    Most of the causes of the population declines are understood but not ceased. Habitat loss and disturbance occurs in most ranges. Management actions including predator and alternate prey control and resource management guidelines have been applied to varying degree, but their ability to reverse decline is yet to be confirmed.

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals?

    Although no extreme fluctuations in number of Caribou occurred at the scale of the Canadian range, some ranges have experienced drastic declines in some provinces.

    • No

Extent and Occupancy Information

  • Estimated extent of occurrence

    • 3 million km2
  • Index of area of occupancy (IAO) (Always report 2x2 grid value).

    Source: Federal Recovery Strategy

    • 2.45 million km2
  • Is the population severely fragmented?

    Caribou are isolated and highly fragmented populations in British Columbia and Alberta. In the NT and from Manitoba to Labrador, most of the BP is dispersed in a continuous range. Some isolated populations exist south of the continuous range in Manitoba, Ontario, and Québec.

    • No
  • Number of locations*

    The Federal Recovery Strategy identified 51 Boreal Caribou ranges in Canada. Different threats exist in each range.

    • Many
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in extent of occurrence?

    A northward range contraction and range fragmentation has been described in most provinces over last hundred years and continues (e.g. Manitoba). The northward receding trend in the southern limit of BP range is a slow process (e.g. 34 km per decade in Ontario). Time lags on the order of decades between disturbance and range loss make it difficult to infer the boundary in some parts of Canada.

    • Yes
  • Is there an observed continuing decline in index of area of occupancy?

    See above

    • Yes
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of populations?

    One sub-population (Swan-Pelican Lakes) confirmed to be recently extirpated in Manitoba.

    • Yes
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in number of locations*?

    See above

    • Likely
  • Is there an [observed, inferred, or projected] continuing decline in [area, extent and/or quality] of habitat?

    Habitat alteration through anthropogenic and natural disturbance has caused direct and indirect loss of habitat across Canada.

    • Yes
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of populations?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations*?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence?

    • No
  • Are there extreme fluctuations in index of area of occupancy?

    Range recession has been consistent; extirpated areas have not been re-populated.

    • No

Number of Mature Individuals (in each population)

  • Population:

    N Mature Individuals

    • Total: Unknown; 33000-34000 (includes unknown # of calves)

    Mature animal estimate includes unknown number of calves because some, but not all, jurisdictions include calves in estimate and definition of calf varies among surveys. Source: Environment Canada (2012).

Quantitative Analysis

  • Probability of extinction in the wild is at least 20% within 5 generations (30 years).

    • Not done

Threats (actual or imminent, to populations or habitats)

Most habitat disturbances within BP ranges remove mature coniferous forests and create young stands of mixed forests. This new landscape favours population increases of other cervids (Moose and White-tailed Deer), and subsequently facilitates population increases of predators like Wolves and Black Bears. Threats are closely interrelated and act cumulatively to cause direct and indirect impacts on BP. Caribou avoid areas with anthropogenic disturbance, such as roads, linear features, noise, and land clearing. An increase in fire will result in habitat loss. Some local sub-populations are at risk due to overhunting, pathogens, and climate change.

Rescue Effect (immigration from outside Canada)

  • Status of outside population(s)?

    The DU only exists within Canada

    • n/a
  • Is immigration known or possible?

    • n/a
  • Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?

    • n/a
  • Is rescue from outside populations likely?

    • n/a

Data-Sensitive Species

  • Is this a data-sensitive species?
    • No

Status History

  • COSEWIC: The Boreal population was designated Threatened in May 2000. This newly defined population is composed 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.

Status and Reasons for Designation:

Status:
Threatened
Alpha-numeric code:
A3bc+4abc
Reasons 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.

Applicability of Criteria

Criterion A (Decline in Total Number of Mature Individuals):
A1 Not applicable; Threats not ceased. A2 Not applicable; Past population abundance poorly known and declines inferred from negative growth rates mainly from last 10 years, rather than 18 years. A3bc Meets Threatened; Reductions of > 30% expected in the population in next 18 years, based on evidence that most of range has negative growth rates and future population increase is not expected in the approximately 35% of ranges where disturbance is at or below self-sufficiency threshold. A4abc meets Threatened; as above, with additional direct observation of declines in sub-populations in British Columbia, Alberta, Labrador in last 10 years, and expectation of continued declines due to negative growth rates and amount of range at or below self-sufficiency threshold.
Criterion B (Small Distribution Range and Decline or Fluctuation):
Not applicable; range exceeds 20,000 km².
Criterion C (Small and Declining Number of Mature Individuals):
Not applicable; population exceeds 10,000 mature animals.
Criterion D (Very Small or Restricted Population):
Not applicable; Population exceeds 1,000 mature animals, with > 5 locations.
Criterion E(Quantitative Analysis):
Not applicable; population viability analysis for most of DU not conducted.

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Preface

Six “nationally significant populations” of the forest-dwelling Woodland Caribou were identified by COSEWIC in 2002 and listed under SARA as: Northern Mountain population (Special Concern), Southern Mountain population (Threatened), Boreal population (Threatened), Forest-tundra population (Not Assessed), Atlantic-Gaspésie population (Endangered), and the insular Newfoundland population (Not at Risk) (COSEWIC 2002). In 2011, COSEWIC adopted a designatable unit structure for all Caribou in Canada (COSEWIC 2011); the Boreal population (DU6), the Atlantic-Gaspésie population (DU11) (referred to as Gaspésie population in this report), and the insular Newfoundland population (DU5) are assessed in this report.

Since the last assessment, there have been significant amounts of research in all three DUs, much of it in support of provincial and national recovery efforts. Information for the three DUs is presented together unless it is unique to a DU, or relates to a subject more important for assessment. Available information is not equal between, or within, DUs, and more detail exists in some sections of the report.

COSEWIC History

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) was created in 1977 as a result of a recommendation at the Federal-Provincial Wildlife Conference held in 1976. It arose from the need for a single, official, scientifically sound, national listing of wildlife species at risk. In 1978, COSEWIC designated its first species and produced its first list of Canadian species at risk. Species designated at meetings of the full committee are added to the list. On June 5, 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. SARA establishes COSEWIC as an advisory body ensuring that species will continue to be assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process.

COSEWIC Mandate

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other designatable units that are considered to be at risk in Canada. Designations are made on native species for the following taxonomic groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, molluscs, vascular plants, mosses, and lichens.

COSEWIC Membership

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three non-government science members and the co-chairs of the species specialist subcommittees and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge subcommittee. The Committee meets to consider status reports on candidate species.

Definitions (2014)

Wildlife Species
A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.
Extinct (X)
A wildlife species that no longer exists.
Extirpated (XT)
A wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in Canada, but occurring elsewhere.
Endangered (E)
A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or extinction.
Threatened (T)
A wildlife species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.
Special Concern (SC) (Note: Formerly described as “Vulnerable” from 1990 to 1999, or “Rare” prior to 1990.)
A wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
Not at Risk (NAR) (Note: Formerly described as “Not In Any Category”, or “No Designation Required.”)
A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.
Data Deficient (DD) (Note: Formerly described as “Indeterminate” from 1994 to 1999 or “ISIBD” [insufficient scientific information on which to base a designation] prior to 1994. Definition of the [DD] category revised in 2006.)
A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the species’ risk of extinction.

The Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, provides full administrative and financial support to the COSEWIC Secretariat.

Introduction