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.
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
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.
To count a herd as accurately as possible, they are tracked by radio collars. When the herds combine into a large group, they are photographed. The number of caribou counted in the photo is compared with the number of radio collars initially dispersed and an estimation is given through the ratio.