Caribou reckoning looms

The process for saving the woodland caribou from extinction in Alberta is grinding along. Range plans are being developed for each of several herds in the province. Just because the process hasn’t been in the news lately doesn’t mean it isn’t happening; nor does it mean conservation measures will be any less disruptive than predicted the last time the issue flared up.

Caribou are struggling. Unlike their cousins the deer (or even moose) they are unadaptable, relying on a undisturbed habitat. That’s something that is becoming very hard to find in Alberta anymore, as oil and gas activity and tree-extraction penetrate the landscape. Not to mention recreational use of the bush.

Wolves are doing well – the proliferation of the highly-adaptable white-tail deer probably has a lot to do with that. But again, the woodland caribou can’t handle a lot of predation. Herd numbers are small and dwindling, and reproduction rates can’t keep up.

So if we really want to save these caribou herds – and there’s one just east of Slave Lake – it’s probably going to take something drastic. Either that or we just pretend to do something, and let the chips fall where they may. We suspect a lot of people may be thinking – privately – along those lines.

Either way, some sort of government directive on saving a herd near you can be expected in the next few years.

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