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Landscape change is measured as ‘fragmentation density” in each of the NWT’s forested ecoregions. Seismic lines and fire scars in the Taiga Plains – see VEGETATION for details on natural disturbances like fire. Information on caribou for this indicator is obtained from woodland caribou surveys conducted by ENR biologists1. Data for the location of human features are from the National Energy Board, the National Road Network, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the NWT Geoscience Office and the NWT Centre for Geomatics, Government of the Northwest Territories.
Monitoring the status of woodland caribou in the NWT is important to help track the effects of landscape changes due to human activities on a species at risk particularly sensitive to these changes.
As seen in this photograph taken in summer 2005, efforts are underway to reduce the effects of 3D seismic by reducing the line of sight of predators by building in slight curves in each line. Local knowledge suggests that “where changes are recorded (in distribution), they are variable and local: some specific areas in the NWT used to have boreal caribou do not anymore, or do not have many.
Northern mountain caribou estimates are summarized from the 2014 COSEWIC report3. Boreal caribou information summarized from the 2012 SARC report4. This indicator will continue to track changes in fragmentation densities, providing a “footprint” of human features, using the information provided by the National Energy Board and other regulatory agencies.
The NWT is less fragmented and less developed than many parts of southern Canada, although an increase in development is expected in the future. For more information on the Dehcho Land Use Plan and visible seismic lines obtained from satellite images for the Dehcho. The density of seismic lines presented here only reflects seismic lines created up to 2000, and therefore the density figures are already dated. Purpose was to visually depict the fragmentation density in each NWT Level IV ecogreion with an intuitive color scheme. A single “buffered features” layer (shapefile) was created using the feature data listed in the table below. 1.      In each Level IV ecoregion shapefile, total area coverage, in km2, was calculated using the geometry command. Fragmentation density is thus the total “buffered features” area in a Level IV ecoregion divided by the total area of that Level IV ecoregion.  Measurement units are km2. A map illustrating the distribution of all the fragmentation features (data) used to calculate the “buffered features” layer is shown.  Fragmentation density was not calculated for non-forested ecozones, as Level IV ecoregion layers were not available as of January 2010. Sources, year of data availability, and references used to determine the buffer radius for each feature type are tabled below. If you live in the united states, these green links will take you to organizations that make a difference there. There's only about 45 of them left, and they are the only caribou that venture into the lower 48 states. Himebaugh said the county and the snowmobilers face too many restrictions on the outdoors, and that the herd is not significant enough to warrant protection. This member of the deer family is the only ungulate (hoofed grazer) with antlers on both male and female.
Woodland caribou have grey-brown grey coats, with thick creamy white on shoulders, chests, bellies and under tails.
They are the only large mammals able to assimilate a primary winter diet of terrestrial and arboreal lichen. The caribou use perfectly designed concave hooves with sharp edges to locate and dig through the snow in search of lichens.
Scent glands at the base of the ankle dispense a distinct scent when the animal is startled, sending a warning message to other animals nearby. Caribou cows typically produce only one calf each spring, seeking traditional calving grounds in very remote, isolated areas. The majestic woodland caribou roams large, undisturbed forests, wetlands, and bogs in every province of Canada, except the Maritimes where the species was extirpated in the 1920’s. With a solid body built for stability and long legs to navigate deep snow, they travel the northern forests and might migrate great distances in search of food.
Through the summer, caribou seek green vegetation of wetlands and valleys, but following the winter freeze, they use keen scent to locate nutritious terrestrial lichen, which have high carbohydrate content and are easy to metabolize. However, as industrial development pushes further north, the caribou are running out of suitable territory. Woodland caribou are facing disturbance on all levels and low birthrates coupled with a high calf mortality rate means populations are very susceptible to stress. The federal government released a proposed recovery strategy for the boreal woodland caribou in August, 2011, but it’s significantly weaker than it needs to be. While it may appear that overall caribou numbers are high, if little happens to halt the decimation of habitat, existing populations will spiral down quickly. Research and monitoring activities are ongoing, but are difficult due to the large areas the caribou cover and the unpredictability of their movements. Some caribou from healthy populations have been relocated to other areas to increase population size and widen the genetic pool. In many areas, hunting of caribou has been closed, restricted, or managed, while in others, hunting allocations for predators, deer, moose and elk have been increased in areas adjacent to caribou habitat. Meanwhile, stewardship and informational programs are raising public awareness and generating support.
Write to your provincial government to indicate your support of caribou recovery initiatives in your province and to ask that they use wisdom and foresight in the development of guidelines to protect forest habitat.
Be aware of forestry development projects within caribou habitat, then make your concerns known to your MLA, premier’s office, forestry offices and local newspaper. Deborah Carr is a freelance journalist and avid outdoorswoman who lives on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. Our mission is to protect and conserve nature in Canada by engaging Canadians and by advocating on behalf of nature. Caribou is a popular meat for Yukon hunting, but the season and hunting areas are very carefully regulated to keep the populations healthy.
Woodland Caribou can be seen in subalpine areas above the tree line, where they seek relief from insects during the summer. In 1977, Manitoba agreed to a joint Federal-Provincial implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In 1988, Manitoba signed the Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife's (RENEW) strategy.
In 1990, realizing that Manitoba had the least amount of land protected from development among Canadian jurisdictions. In 1990, the Manitoba government passed The Endangered Species Act (amended in 1993) to ensure the protection and survival of endangered and threatened species in the province and to enable the reintroduction of extirpated species.
In 1994, the Manitoba government established the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre (MBCDC) to assemble and provide information for conserving Manitoba's natural biodiversity.

In 1996, the Manitoba government integrated the MBCDC into the Manitoba Conservation Wildlife Branch as part of its commitment towards maintaining biodiversity.
Also in 1996, the Manitoba government signed the federal-provincial-territorial Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. Recent aerial surveys in west-central Manitoba show the moose population in the Porcupine and Duck mountain regions remains low but stable.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship also put a partial closure in place January 20, 2012 on moose hunting in parts of GHA 26, which stretches from Lake Winnipeg to the Manitoba-Ontario border between the Winnipeg and Wanipigow rivers.
The department says it has consulted local First Nations and Métis people to find solutions and will continue to work with Aboriginal communities and stakeholders to develop long-term plans to address low moose populations across the province. Government biologists, natural resource officers and local First Nations perform the aerial surveys. In March 2011, the province announced $800,000 for a moose population recovery plan to help end the decline and restore moose population to sustainable levels across Manitoba. Manitoba is cancelling moose hunting in two regions of the province after steep declines in moose populations have been verified. Surveys by Manitoba Conservation show moose numbers have fallen as steeply as 65 per cent in several regions since 2000, including around the Duck Mountains, the most popular moose-hunting area, located 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. Cancellation of all moose hunting will apply to Game Hunting Areas (GHAs) 13 and 13A, located on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan near Duck Mountain Provincial Park, for the 2011season. In March 2011 the province announced it was directing $800,000 towards dealing with declines in moose populations. The province states it is working co-operatively with all concerned parties to develop a comprehensive moose management plan. Manitobans are being asked to help track the health, distribution, abundance, and breeding habits of bird species throughout Manitoba by participating in the creation of the first ever Manitoba Bird Atlas Project (MBAP). Although the Manitoba Naturalists Society released a publication, The Birds of Manitoba in 2003, Manitoba is behind other Canadian provinces in initiating a breeding bird atlas. The project is a partnership between government, the private sector, and conservation organizations, including the Province of Manitoba, Environment Canada, Bird Studies Canada, Nature Manitoba, The Manitoba Museum, Manitoba Hydro, and Nature Conservancy Canada. The Endangered Species Act (Manitoba) established a mechanism to designate species as endangered, threatened, extinct or extirpated.
There are 34 species of plants and animals currently listed as being endangered, threatened or extirpated under Manitoba's Endangered Species Act. Records on Manitoba's species at risk (including their known habitat) are maintained in the Biological Conservation Data system of the Wildlife and Ecosystem Protection Branch. For some years, conservation groups, federal officials, and even the paper company Tembec - which holds tenure within some areas of the animals' range - have expressed concern for the status of woodland caribou in Manitoba and have lobbied for its designation under the Manitoba Endangered Species Act.
On June 8, 2006, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers finally made good on his promise (made repeatedly over the last few years) to recognize the threatened status of woodland caribou under Manitoba's endangered species legislation. Woodland caribou were assessed by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as being a 'Vulnerable' species in 1984, and in 2003, the federal government listed woodland caribou as 'Threatened' under Schedule 1 of the federal Species At Risk Act. The Sprague's pipit, hairy prairie-clover, buffalo grass and hackberry were confirmed as threatened species and the Ross's gull was officially declared as endangered under Manitoba's Endangered Species Act by a June 23, 2007 regulation. The newly listed species require protection under the Endangered Species Act because of limited distribution, low numbers or their dependence on specialized habitats. The Manitoba Conservation Data Centre (CDC) includes data about species that are rare or in need of further research as well as all species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act - Manitoba (ESA) and have a recommendation by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
Each species is evaluated and ranked by the CDC based on their range-wide (global) status, and their province-wide status according to a standardized procedure used by all Conservation Data Centres and Natural Heritage Programs. Canada's Biodiversity Strategy guides Canada in its actions to fulfill commitments made when Canada signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. This indicator also tracks the status of woodland caribou dwelling in the NWT in the Taiga Plains ecozone (also called boreal caribou) and in the Cordillera ecozone (also called northern mountain caribou).
Status assessment information is obtained from the 2002 COSEWIC status report on woodland caribou2, undated COSEWIC report on Northern Mountain Caribou3 and the Species at Risk Committee (SARC) report on Boreal Caribou4.
For example, forests are part of a natural mosaic of wetlands, peatlands and areas burned by wild land fires that is always changing. Buffers are from expert opinion and peer-reviewed papers (see details in the Technical Note below).
Woodland caribou are a different sub-species than barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groendlandicus).
As well, an unknown proportion of the old seismic lines included in the data set used for this indicator may have re-grown and may not be as visible on the landscape. Boreal caribou are listed as threatened and northern mountain caribou were listed as a species of special concern in Canada under the federal Species at Risk Act2. The effects of increasing seismic line densities on woodland caribou population trends are being studied and will be reported in this indicator in the future. Detail of the management of northern mountain caribou in the NWT can be found in the National Management Plan5.
Currently, woodland caribou populations in the NWT are among the more sustainable in Canada, though continued monitoring is needed to help make sure these populations remain healthy5,6. Numerous 2D and 3D seismic line programs were carried out between 2001 and 2005 in sectors a, b, c, and d. Each feature was buffered at the defined buffer radius, followed by an amalgamation process. 2012 Management Plan for the Northern Mountain Population of Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week a 90-day period to receive further submissions as it considers removing the endangered status of the Selkirk herd. Adult bulls shed theirs in late autumn after mating, but the females often retain theirs until spring. A longer layer of semi-hollow guard hair supplements a dense undercoat, providing insulation against cold and wind, and buoyancy while swimming. As snow melts, caribou seek sedges, new leaves and flowers providing nitrogen, as pregnant cows rely on this to produce milk. Today, they are nicknamed ‘grey ghosts’ for their elusive, shy nature… a portent, perhaps, to their future, as numbers are in sharp decline throughout Canada.
Once winter’s crust deepens and firms enough to support their weight, herds move into mature coniferous forests seeking arboreal lichens, such as Old Man’s Beard and Witches Hair, which only grow on trees 80 years or older. This is directly connected to their survival as these forests not only provide a necessary food source, but protection from predators such as wolves, lynx, cougar, coyote, and bears. Logging operations, oil and gas exploration and mining developments are cutting into these forests, opening up networks of roads and seismic lines that penetrate their isolated habitat and provide linear corridors for predators to travel.
Ensuring the long-term health of boreal ecosystems is mandatory for survival of the woodland caribou, but so far, governments have made little headway to adequately protect forest within the caribou range. Provincial and Territorial recovery plans have been drafted and best practices for forest management and backcountry tourism operators revised.

The Little Rancheria and Carcross herds can also be seen during winter on the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake and Whitehorse, respectively. The MBCDC is part of the Natural Heritage Network which functions under the umbrella of Nature Serve and Nature Serve Canada.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship announced March 1, 2012, moose hunting was cancelled in the Porcupine and Duck mountain regions, Game Hunting Area (GHA) 13 and 13A, May 26, 2011 after aerial surveys showed sharp population declines. Moose populations have declined by almost 50 per cent in this part of the province since 2006.
Several factors can influence the number of moose seen during surveys such as snow depth, temperature and time of year. If moose populations decline further, there is a risk the population may not recover or the recovery period will be extended over many years," said Manitoba Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie. The funding included: two new wildlife biologists, additional natural resource officers with better patrol coverage, and a moose advisory committee comprised of local groups, Aboriginal organizations and governments to partner in further development of a moose recovery strategy.
Breeding bird atlases were first started in Europe in the late 1970's, and Saskatchewan had an atlas like project starting in the 1970's. The designation affords some protection for the species and requires the Manitoba government to take action to safeguard the woodland caribou. The Manitoba Endangered Species Advisory Committee assessed the status of boreal woodland caribou in Manitoba as 'Endangered' in 1994 and in 2002, the status was reassessed as 'Threatened', excluding coastal populations. Manitoba's woodland caribou population has decreased by 50% since 1950 and the animals have disappeared from the southern parts of their historical range. The Strategy is also the context for Canada's international report of its actions under the CBD. Ecoregions have distinctive ecological factors including climate, physiography, vegetation, soil, water and fauna. They are larger, taller, darker brown, and have thicker, broader antlers than barren-ground caribou.  Woodland caribou are found throughout the Cordillera and Taiga Plains ecozones of the NWT.
Some activities remove vegetation and add to the fragmentation of the natural landscape for many generations. By comparing the NEB data set of pre-1999 lines with maps of visible seismic lines obtained from satellite images for the Dehcho, it was found that the NEB data are incomplete. Available details for these recent seismic programs can be found in the Human Activities focal point.
To allow accurate area calculations, we used Albers Conical Equal Area projection with these NWT-specific parameters: 0 - False Easting, 0 - False Northing, -119 - Central Meridian, 62 – 1st Standard Parallel, 70 – 2nd Standard Parallel, 0 – Latitude of origin, NAD83 – Datum.
Update COSEWIC status report on the woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou in Canada, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa. Update COSEWIC report on the Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in the Northern Mountain Central Mountain and Southern Mountain designatable units.
Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada. Boreal Caribou Progress Report: Hay River Lowlands and Cameron Hills Study Areas 1 April 2008 – 31 March 2010 , Government of Northwest Territories, Environment and Natural Resources, Fort Smith, NT.
Dehcho Boreal Caribou Study Progress Report, April 2011, Government of Northwest Territories, Environment and Natural Resources, Fort Simpson, NT. Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Boreal population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada. Calf survival rates are 30-50%, significantly reducing the herd’s ability to recover when numbers are threatened. This also keeps them geographically separated from moose and deer carrying meningeal brain worm, which is fatal to caribou.
These roads and lines also enable recreational access by ATVs, snowmobiles, hunters and poachers.
The challenge facing recovery teams is that complex recovery strategies are expensive, resources limited and pressure from commercial user groups strong.
Moose hunting closure areas apply to both licensed hunting and treaty and Aboriginal rights-based hunters. The 2012 results, combined with results from future surveys, will be used to track the progress of moose population recovery in Manitoba. All decisions concerning wildlife and fisheries need to be made using realistic and current scientific methods and data. The decline has occurred as a result of human activities that impact caribou habitat, as well as because of increased predation, parasites, diseases, and uncontrolled hunting. The fragmentation densities calculated in this indicator result from human activities and should be considered in addition to the natural fragmentation of the landscape. Woodland caribou require habitat that will provide enough food and protection from predators to keep local populations healthy. As a result, the density estimates presented here should be considered as minimum baseline numbers.
Threats to woodland caribou can include linear corridors such trails, roads and seismic lines, increased predation due to access along corridors, changes in disease and, in some areas, over-harvesting. Regenerated forest areas attract elk, deer and moose, which prefer the tender shoots of young trees, increasing chance of disease. The guesswork needs to be taken out of the equation," says Lac Du Bonnet Wildlife Association Vice President Don Halbert. In Manitoba, an estimated 1,800 to 3,200 of the animals live east of Lake Winnipeg, in the Interlake, and in the North. Fragmentation density levels are measured as total buffered area of human features divided by total area in each ecoregion, in km2 per km2.
As more infrastructure and renewable and non-renewable resources are developed in the NWT, management agencies are monitoring cumulative impacts of fragmentation on the NWT’s biodiversity.
The map was created using shapefiles of the Level IV ecoregions in the Taiga Plains, Taiga Shield, and Boreal and Taiga Cordillera Level II ecoregions (NWT Ecosystem Classification Group 2007, 2008, 2009, available here. All buffered and dissolved layers were unioned into one master “buffered features” data layer, which required a dissolve function to create a single multipart polygon.
Quantifying barrier effects of roads and seismic lines on movements of female woodland caribou in northeastern Alberta. Human features included are communities, mines, oil-gas wells, pipelines (all below ground), seismic lines, all-weather roads, winter roads, power stations, power lines and the Canol Trail.

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