The Boreal Caribou Recovery Strategy

- Summary Fact Sheet -

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Boreal caribou

Boreal caribou are members of the deer family and are smaller than moose. Both males and females have antlers.

Contrary to migratory caribou, boreal caribou are sedentary and live in small groups of fewer than 15 animals. They inhabit the boreal forest.

Boreal caribou are found in Canada only from the northeast corner of Yukon east to Labrador, and as far south as Lake Superior in Ontario.

 

Boreal caribou are threatened

Boreal caribou have seen their numbers decrease by more than 30% over the last 20 years.

Changes to their habitat from both human-made and natural sources, and increased predation as a result of these habitat changes, have led to their decline across Canada.

Some boreal caribou are at risk because of other factors, mainly over-harvesting.

They are assessed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and listed as a threatened species under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). 

Recovering boreal caribou

Environment Canada has published a recovery strategy for boreal caribou that aims to achieve self-sustaining local populations across Canada. A local population is self-sustaining when:

  • It has more births than deaths;
  • It is large enough to resist natural catastrophes and human pressures (e.g. industrial development, hunting, etc.);
  • It does not need active intervention from humans (e.g. killing predators);
  • It can persist over the long-term (over a number of decades).

Across Canada, 14 local populations are already self-sustaining; these are to be maintained at their current status. 37 local populations are not self-sustaining; these are to first be stabilized and then recovered to self-sustaining status.

Map of Canada showing the population and distribution objectives for the 51 boreal caribou local populations in Canada. On this map, the population and distribution objectives for boreal caribou are represented by one of two categories for each local population: maintain self-sustaining status (14 local populations) or stabilize and achieve self-sustaining status (37 local populations). The range boundaries used in this map were updated in June 2012. Boreal caribou ranges are based on the best available information provided by provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Boreal caribou ranges are categorized based on the degree of certainty in the delineated boundaries into: Conservation Units (CUs), Improved Conservation Units (ICUs), and Local Population Units (LPUs). Updates to CUs and ICUs are anticipated. Changes to range boundaries may in turn result in changes to the integrated risk assessment.

 

Identifying critical habitat for boreal caribou

Critical habitat is the habitat needed to achieve the recovery goal of self-sustaining local populations.

Critical habitat for boreal caribou is identified as:

  • The area within the boundary of each range that provides at least 65% undisturbed habitat; and
  • The habitat characteristics required by boreal caribou: calving sites, wintering areas, etc.

Destruction of critical habitat is determined on a case by case basis. Destruction would result if part of the critical habitat were degraded, either permanently or temporarily, such that it would not serve its function when needed by boreal caribou.

Activities likely to destroy critical habitat include those that:

  • Compromise the ability of a range to maintain or achieve 65% undisturbed habitat;
  • Reduce connectivity, which is the presence of continuous tracts of habitat that boreal caribou use to move on the land;
  • Increase predator access to undisturbed areas; or
  • Remove or alter habitat characteristics that boreal caribou need.

Map of Canada showing critical habitat for the 51 boreal caribou ranges. Critical habitat is identified for all boreal caribou ranges, except for northern Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield range (SK1). On this map, critical habitat for boreal caribou is represented by one of three categories for each range: maintain at least 65% undisturbed habitat (17 ranges), increase over time to 65% undisturbed habitat (33 ranges), or critical habitat not identified (one range). The range boundaries used in this map were updated in June 2012. Boreal caribou ranges are based on the best available information provided by provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Boreal caribou ranges are categorized based on the degree of certainty in the delineated boundaries into: Conservation Units (CUs), Improved Conservation Units (ICUs), and Local Population Units (LPUs). Updates to CUs and ICUs are anticipated. Changes to range boundaries may in turn result in changes to the integrated risk assessment.

In northern Saskatchewan, boreal caribou face a unique situation: their habitat is mainly disturbed by fire and less so by human activities. More information will be collected before critical habitat can be identified in the Boreal Shield range (SK1) in northern Saskatchewan.

Next steps

The next steps in boreal caribou recovery are the development of range plans and action plans by the responsible jurisdictions, mainly provinces and territories. Environment Canada will continue working closely with jurisdictions throughout their development. Aboriginal people, stakeholders and the public will be invited to participate in the process.


For more information

To find out more about boreal caribou recovery, please contact us at the following address:

Environment Canada
Inquiry Centre
10 Wellington Street, 23rd Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
Canada K1A 0H3
Tel: 819-997-2800
Tel (toll free): (800) 668-6767
Fax: 819-994-1412
TTY: 819-994-0736
E-mail
Website

ISBN 978-1-100-21295-1
Cat. No.: En3-4/149-2012E-PDF
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© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2012.