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Banff National Park

Caribou & Captive Breeding: Conserving a Species at Risk 

Captive breeding is one of a suite of caribou conservation actions identified in the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada. To maintain or restore healthy populations in the mountain national parks, Parks Canada continues to work with partners to determine how to best proceed with the implementation of a caribou captive breeding program.

What is captive breeding?  

Through a captive breeding program, a limited number of source animals are taken from large, wild populations and bred in captivity. Offspring are strategically released into wild areas where they will have the greatest conservation value and the optimum chances for success.

The goal of the program is to build a source population that could be used to supplement several small herds in Jasper National Park, British Columbia and potentially Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks. Animals from this program could also be reintroduced into Banff National Park, where the remaining resident herd was extirpated by an avalanche in 2009.

Caribou antler near avalanche site Hector 2010 © Parks Canada
Caribou antler near avalanche site © Parks Canada / Jesse Whittington / 2010

How will the program work?

Captive breeding is a long-term project with a goal of supplying caribou for approximately four to six sub populations over a 10-20 year period.

Distribution of woodland caribou Southern Mountain population Distribution of woodland caribou, Southern Mountain population

Year 1: Potentially 20 caribou, likely from suitable wild herds in British Columbia, will be moved to a suitable captive rearing site.

Year 2: The conservation herd would be augmented by an additional 20 wild caribou.

Year 3: The first yearlings could be translocated from the conservation herd to the wild.

Parks Canada is committed to keeping stakeholders and other conservation organizations informed as to the progress of the caribou captive rearing program. The success of conserving and protecting this iconic species at risk depends on cooperation and collaboration from many partners, including other governments, the private sector, the research and scientific community, outdoor recreationalists, and the public who join us in treasuring and protecting Canada’s national parks.

As a world leader in conservation, Parks Canada is working with other organizations to protect and recover Species at Risk, like the threatened Southern Mountain population of woodland caribou.