Woodland Caribou Recovery Efforts in Jasper National Park

The Woodland Caribou is one of the rarer animals in Jasper National Park. According to Parks Canada, there are only about 200 to 350 Woodland Caribou remaining in 2 herds in Jasper National Park and the species is on a decline. A November 2006 study by the Caribou Recovery Team, headed by Parks Canada Wildlife Specialist Mark Bradley, reported a minimum of 115 caribou.

The challenge is the caribou’s diet. They only eat lichen, but lichen grows slowly and in limited quantity in subalpine forests.

Woodland caribou are different from the more popular northern caribou in that woodland caribou live mostly in subalpine forests whereas northern caribou migrate across large areas of the tundra and have a more varied diet.

Another challenge is predation by wolves and accidents. The Caribou Recovery Team is working on ways to manage predation and working with the park to deter visitors from speeding.

Woodland Caribou

Canada’s Jasper National Park is such an important place to the Woodland Caribou and other rare species. It serves as a protected home for several declining species, including the gray wolf and the mountain lion.

Jamie Rappaport Clark of Defenders of Wildlife, says this about the plight of caribou in North America, echoing the importance of Canada’s conservation efforts:

“Over the past five years, we have witnessed the near extinction of the woodland caribou in North America. Indeed, we’re only down to three animals in the U.S., largely due to the government’s mismanagement of snowmobile traffic in areas vital to the animal’s survival.”

Randall Tetlichi’s classic quote explains it differently:

“The ancestors warned us about this bad time coming. I think the caribou know what’s happening in this world, and they have decided to leave, to go back to the spirit world.”

Parks Canada continues to improve caribou management efforts. As a way to coordinate caribou strategies amongst Canada mountain parks, the Mountain National Parks Caribou Committee was formed in June 2006.

One way to learning more about the plight of the caribou is to check out “Being Caribou“, a film that has won 17 international film awards and a book of the same title that is highly regarded.

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1 comment to Woodland Caribou Recovery Efforts in Jasper National Park

  • I don’t know much about caribou but I now know the amazing fact that they only eat lichen. I would never have thought that. I hope the caribou are doing well and haven’t all been wiped out as it would be a sad loss for the world.

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