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In-depth
Caribou in Canada
Across the country, caribou are struggling to survive in their ever-changing habitat. Facing a modern world, they are losing the battle.

Changing times: COSEWIC status categories

Advances in technology have allowed for relative ease in tracking caribou today – but so have the dwindling herd numbers. Looking over the past 40 years, information collected is inconsistent as caribou were not tracked frequently, nor were they all accounted for at once. Despite the gaps, the overall trend remains the same. 

The chart above illustrates the average population numbers of barren ground caribou in Canada. As of the most recent surveys conducted in 2000, five subspecies in particular –Bathurst, Bluenose East, Bluenose West, Cape Bathurst and Porcupine – all suffered reduced numbers. The status of the remaining three – Ahiak, Beverly and Qamanirjuaq – is unknown; unchanged as reported in the early 90s.

Since 1977, the Committee of the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has been working to identify these and other at-risk species across the nation. The committee is made up of wildlife specialists, knowledgeable aboriginal people, biologists and museum officials.  Using scientific-based evaluations, this team of experts determines what level of risk each wildlife species is designated. Through ongoing research and assessments, the committee ranks wildlife annually.

– S.G.

The COSEWIC status categories are as follows:
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) - A wildlife species that may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Data Deficient (DD) - A category that applies when the available information is insufficient (a) to resolve a wildlife species’ eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the wildlife species’ risk of extinction.

Not At Risk (NAR) - A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances.

Courtesy of COSEWIC


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Caribou ranges

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Caribou in Canada
Introduction Changing times Northern significance Caribou subspecies Map Photo Gallery
Video Gallery
Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Serv./B.Stevens
Some migrating caribou walk over 4,400 kilometres in a year between calving grounds and trying to find food.
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