Rangifer tarandus

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Rangifer tarandus
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Data from: Science update for the South Peace Northern Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou pop. 15) in British Columbia

2019-08-27, Seip, Dale R., Price, Elena

All caribou in British Columbia belong to the woodland subspecies (Rangifer tarandus caribou) and are further classified into three ecotypes based on differences in habitat use, behaviour and migration patterns. Approximately 17,000 northern ecotype Woodland Caribou reside in the province. This document focuses on seven herds belonging to this population found in the southern Peace region of BC (South Peace Northern Caribou, SPNC). These herds are referred to as the Graham, Moberly, Scott, Burnt Pine, Kennedy Siding, Quintette and Narraway. There are approximately 1,000 SPNC in BC The following summarizes the designations that apply to SPNC, which are designated as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. They are listed as Threatened in Canada on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. In BC, the SPNC are ranked S3 (special concern, vulnerable to extirpation or extinction) by the Conservation Data Centre and are on the provincial Blue list. The BC Conservation Framework ranks the SPNC as a priority 2 under goal 2 (prevent species and ecosystems from becoming at risk). They are protected from capture and killing, under the BC Wildlife Act. Caribou are also listed as a “Category of Ungulate Species” for which an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) may be legally established under Section 11(3) of the Government Actions Regulation of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). UWRs contain habitat necessary to meet the winter habitat requirements of an ungulate species. Caribou are also listed as a "Category of Species at Risk" for which a Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) may be legally established under Section 11(1) of the Government Actions Regulation. WHAs for caribou may be established to protect habitat required for calving, rutting, matrix/connectivity and mineral licks. UWRs and WHAs established under FRPA are also recognized under the Oil and Gas Activities Act. Recovery is considered to be biologically and technically feasible. The seasonal habitat use patterns of SPNC vary among herds, but generally in winter, they will select low-elevation forests (low-elevation winter habitat) and/or windswept alpine ridges (high-elevation winter habitat). In summer, certain herds use and select alpine and subalpine habitat, while other herds may use low-elevation boreal forest habitat. Use of high-elevation habitat provides some spatial separation between SPNC and predators such as grey wolves (Canis lupus) because these wolves primarily use low-elevation forest where the density of other ungulate species is higher. The primary cause of known adult mortality of SPNC is predation, primarily wolf predation. Other species including bears, wolverines (Gulo gulo) and eagles can be significant predators, particularly on calves. Any habitat change that compromises the spatial separation between caribou and their predators can compound this threat by increasing the risk of predation. Forestry-related activities have impacted SPNC and their habitat and are expected to do so into the future. Present-day energy production and mining are the most imminent industry-related threats to SPNC and their habitat. Impacts associated with forestry activities and energy and mining development include habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation and displacement of caribou from preferred habitats. Alteration of habitat may include the reduction of the availability of forage and/or the facilitation of habitat into early-seral forest, which supports more abundant early-seral ungulates (e.g., moose) and their predators. Most linear corridors such as access roads, seismic lines, pipelines and all- weather roads associated with energy production into the alpine increase SPNC risk to predation and have the potential to displace caribou from preferred habitats. Effluents and pollutants associated with energy production may also pose a risk to SPNC. The overall calculated and assigned threat impact that is observed, inferred, or suspected to be directly or indirectly effecting the ecology of SPNC over the next 10 years is very high (75% population declines).