Boreal caribou habitat can be threatened by human-caused and natural disturbances such as logging, mining, construction of linear features, recreational activity, fires and forest disease. Linear developments facilitate the movement of predators and increase the potential for human disturbance, which can impact caribou on the landscape. Activities that alter habitat may cause an increase in moose and deer abundance in caribou ranges resulting in increased predation on caribou by wolves. Wolves are the main predators of boreal caribou, but other predators may include black bears, lynx, wolverines and humans.
CPAWS is working to protect threatened woodland caribou from extinction. These spectacular creatures need immense sections of unbroken boreal forest to find enough food and avoid predators. Caribou ranges continue to degrade as human activity, including logging, mining and road networks, push northward throughout Canada — Manitoba being no exception. Woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus are shy cousins of the European reindeer and the migratory barren ground caribou of the northern tundra. They live in the boreal forest, in particular on carbon-rich, boreal forest peatlands. At one time they were found throughout almost all of the forested regions of Canada. As industrial development continues to sprawl northward, woodland caribou are disappearing from the boreal forests. In Manitoba, they have vanished from a significant portion of their historical range, including all of Whiteshell Provincial Park.
If we hope to save Canada's fast-declining caribou population, we will have to look to both the best available science and the knowledge of First Nations groups. It isn't every day that an international science summit brings together traditional Aboriginal knowledge and Western science. However, threats to a unique species call for a unique approach. The issue in this case is the staggering decline of North America's caribou populations. Hundreds of scientists, wildlife managers, and Aboriginal leaders from across Canada and as far away as Greenland, Russia, and Norway recently met for four days in Winnipeg to discuss the problem.