“There’s a caribou!” Word spread quickly in and around the wilderness lodge in the Tonquin Valley of Jasper National Park. Soon the whole group had gathered, cameras in hand, to watch a lone female prancing skittishly through the alpine meadow nearby. Looking goofy as only a caribou can, like a teenager not yet grown in to overlarge feet, she ran back and forth as though trying to out-manoeuvre an unseen predator or a swarm of mosquitoes. In the days leading up to this backcountry excursion, the group of youth from across Canada had learned about woodland caribou. They’d felt the thick fur of a caribou hide; held a foot to see the large toes that act as shovels, paddles and snowshoes; discussed the challenges faced by caribou today; dressed as caribou to showcase their unique features; and listened to stories of first hand experiences with caribou in the mountain national parks. Now, not only were they in one of Jasper’s most awe-inspiring landscapes, they were also lucky enough to see a caribou in the wild. For these youth, mostly from large cities, it was an experience they won’t soon forget.
Woodland Caribou © Parks Canada / Mark Bradley “Being caribou!” © Parks Canada
Unforgettable experiences like this happen every day, as people like you explore and connect with your protected national treasures. As an international leader in protected areas management, Parks Canada protects these specials places for you and for the wildlife that call them home. In the mountain national parks, woodland caribou recovery is a priority. We are taking action to protect the park ecosystems woodland caribou depend on to survive. Through initiatives like this, Parks Canada is contributing to goals under Canada's National Conservation Plan to restore ecosystems and connect Canadians to nature.
Woodland caribou are found in the boreal forests and mountain regions of Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia and north into the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. They are a medium-sized member of the deer family, rich brown in colour with white necks. Unlike the great herds of barren-ground caribou to the north, woodland caribou are usually found in small groups. They live in old growth forest and high alpine areas. These often hard-to-access areas help them avoid predators. Caribou found in Jasper, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks belong to the Southern Mountain population of woodland caribou. They are distinct from most other woodland caribou in their use of mountain habitat. They do not migrate like many other caribou but rather move elevationally in response to seasonal changes.
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Here is the latest news on caribou research and conservation in the mountain national parks.
Research update on woodland caribou - July 2014 (PDF 826 KB)
Research update on woodland caribou - December 2013 (PDF 825 KB)
Research update on woodland caribou - December 2012 (PDF 1,9 MB)
Research update on woodland caribou - Spring 2012 (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Research update on woodland caribou - November 2011 (PDF, 1.5 MB)
Jasper National Park
Caribou conservation: delayed winter access
As of November 1st, Delayed winter access is in effect for the ranges of the A La Peche (North Boundary), Brazeau (South Jasper) and Tonquin caribou herds. These annual seasonal restrictions are one of a suite of actions being implemented in support of caribou conservation. These areas can still be enjoyed after February 28th (Feb. 15th in the Tonquin) and in the meantime, get out and explore the rest of the park! Check out the wealth of winter activities in Jasper National Park: Winter in Jasper.
- In support of caribou conservation, winter access is again delayed in three backcountry areas of important caribou habitat in Jasper National Park (Tonquin, A La Peche and Brazeau caribou ranges) starting Nov. 1st. Parks Canada has also committed to implement new winter offers in two areas: Decoigne (Highway 16 West of Jasper) and Pyramid Lake. In 2013, a new winter hub was created in the Decoigne area, based on user recommendations, including track-set ski trails, a warming hut and fire pit. Parks Canada is investing in new product development, enhancements to the current offer and improved promotion of winter opportunities in the park. Learn more
- In February 2013, Parks Canada met with regional winter recreational users of Jasper National Park. As part of these discussions, participants were presented with information on the proposed changes to winter access.
Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks
Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society
Parks Canada is working with the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society (RCRW) to help recover mountain caribou in the regional ecosystem through maternity penning. The goal and sole focus of RCRW is to fundraise, plan and conduct maternity penning of southern mountain caribou to increase caribou calf survival in the Columbia Mountains over a five-year period. RCRW is a community-based partnership that includes Parks Canada, the Revelstoke Community Forestry Corporation, the North Columbia Environmental Society, the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club, Heli-Cat Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the Columbia Mountains Caribou Research Project.
How to get involved
Public information sessions and opportunities to participate in consultation on specific conservation actions will take place in each national park as they apply. Conservation actions will vary among the mountain national parks due to unique circumstances in each area.
Become a volunteer “Caribou Ambassador”
- LEARN about caribou
- SHARE the knowledge
- BUILD awareness
- PROTECT a Species at Risk
Participate As A:
- Trail Ambassador or Trailhead host for the Maligne Lake and Cavell/Tonquin Areas
- Community Outreach volunteer
To find out about upcoming information sessions, the caribou ambassador program or to receive caribou conservation updates from Parks Canada, please contact us by email, phone, fax or mail at the following address:
Parks Canada Caribou
Jasper National Park
P.O. Box 10
- The southern mountain population of woodland caribou has declined across western Canada. Listed as a Threatened Species under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), southern mountain caribou range includes parts of Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Jasper and Banff National Parks.
- The Parks Canada led Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou in Canada’s National Parks (2011) has guided conservation actions in the mountain national parks of Banff, Jasper, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier since its completion in 2011. This conservation strategy contributed to the development of the 2014 Recovery Strategy led by Environment Canada.
- On June 3, 2014, the final Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada was posted. This strategy will guide recovery actions for the species across its range including the mountain national parks. Parks Canada, along with the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, worked with Environment Canada to help provide the best available information, technical advice and perspectives for the preparation of the recovery strategy.
Parks Canada has released a Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou in Canada’s National Parks (PDF, 2.7 MB) to guide caribou conservation actions in the mountain national parks of Banff, Jasper, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier. The strategy identifies key threats to the caribou populations and outlines actions to help mitigate these threats.
Hard copies of the Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou in Canada’s National Parks are available by request.
Woodland caribou numbers are declining across Canada. Five Key threats to woodland caribou populations in the mountain parks have been identified and actions proposed to reduce these threats. Each action may or may not be applicable in all four of the mountain national parks (Banff, Jasper, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier).
1. Changes to predator-prey populations in and around caribou habitat
- Keep primary prey for caribou predators low by preventing “elk refuges”
- Monitor predator populations to anticipate their impact on caribou recovery
- Maintain/monitor caribou population size and habitat
2. Facilitated access for predators to caribou
- Provide visitors with opportunities for recreation in areas not important for caribou while restricting recreation in caribou habitat
- Discontinue setting early season ski tracks that lead to caribou winter habitat
3. Direct disturbance
- Reduce speed zones on roads through important habitat
- Implement periodic seasonal trail and road closures
- Relocate trails away from important caribou habitat
- Educate park visitors to avoid disturbing caribou
4. Habitat loss
- Use prescribed fire in areas away from caribou habitat to maintain a safe distance between caribou and their predators
- Use prescribed burns to guard against large fires within caribou habitat
- Development within important caribou habitat to be considered under exceptional circumstances only, and must not adversely affect caribou
5. The increased threats faced by populations that have already become dangerously small
- Re-introduce or add caribou where herd sizes are critically low
- Manage other threats to prevent caribou populations from becoming small
Online Survey Results
Parks Canada values your input and suggestions to help us make the best possible management decisions in support of woodland caribou conservation. From November 25th, 2011 through January 31st, 2012, comments were collected from interested Canadians through an on-line survey. Thank you to everyone who took time to respond. Parks Canada received over 150 comments from across Canada.
Here are the results of that survey (PDF, 1.6 MB).
Parks Canada is currently engaged in discussions with Aboriginal communities in Alberta and British Columbia who have a defined historic connection to the mountain national parks. Feedback from these sessions will be used to help guide revisions to the Conservation Strategy.
If you want to learn more about caribou conservation in the mountain national parks, visit Parks Canada's Species at Risk page.
Woodland Caribou © Parks Canada / Mark Bradley
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