Woodland Caribou - Species at Risk
“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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With the release of the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population in Canada in June 2014, Parks Canada has a legal obligation to prevent the destruction of caribou critical habitat. In the mountain national parks, significant critical habitat protection measures are already in place.
What actions are being taken to protect critical habitat?
- Monitoring and management activities to reduce predation risk;
- Maintenance and protection of old-growth habitat;
- Consideration of critical habitat protection in fire and vegetation management plans and integrated land-use planning;
- Adjustments to the timing of winter access in areas of caribou habitat; and
- Reduced speed zones and/or caribou crossing signs on roads through critical habitat.
Here is the latest news on caribou research and conservation in the mountain national parks.
Mountain National Parks Caribou Conservation Program - Winter 2016 (PDF 1.14 MB)
Conservation update on woodland caribou - Winter 2015 (PDF 1600 KB)
Jasper National Park
Caribou conservation: delayed winter access
Parks Canada is a leader in caribou conservation and Jasper’s vast mountain landscape – more than 11,000 square kilometres – supports both diverse winter recreational opportunities and significant protection of caribou habitat.
To protect winter caribou habitat in Jasper National Park:
- Winter access is delayed annually from November 1st until February 15 in the Tonquin area and February 28th in Maligne-Brazeau and North Boundary areas, dates inclusive.
- First implemented in the Tonquin area in 2009, these delayed access provisions help prevent packed trails from facilitating predators access to this important caribou winter habitat.
- Winter recreational access is available in all delayed access areas later in the season when days are longer and temperatures generally warmer.
Help us protect this iconic Canadian species by choosing to explore other areas of the park during this time. We welcome you to try some of Jasper’s new winter recreational offers. Learn more
In 2013, Parks Canada engaged winter recreational users to inventory activities in Jasper and identify potential areas to strengthen the park’s winter offer. Concurrently, actions were proposed to enhance caribou habitat protection in the park. Parks Canada’s decision to further enhance winter recreational offer that is mindful of caribou conservation in Jasper reflects comments received from local businesses, municipal government, tourism organizations (provincial and local), environmental and outdoor recreational groups.
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
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