Ideas

What's On Our Quarter? The past and future of Canadian caribou

No, it's not a moose, which is what most people think it is. The animal is actually a caribou -- one of the most important but misunderstood species in Canada. Paul Kennedy reports from the International Caribou Conference in Thunder Bay about the past and the future of Canadian caribou.
Wild caribou roam the tundra in Nunavut on March 25, 2009. The Porcupine caribou herd known for its epic annual migrations between the Northwest Territories and Alaska is thriving after a decade of decline. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode54:00

No, it's not a moose, which is what most people think it is. The animal is actually a caribou -- one of the most important but misunderstood species in Canada. Paul Kennedy reports from the International Caribou Conference in Thunder Bay about the past and the future of Canadian caribou. **This episode originally aired October 25, 2016.

Jim Schaefer, from Trent University, describes the essential scope of caribou science 0:35

 

"I will always remember the first time I experienced caribou in the wild. Who could forget? I was in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, and I'd decided to follow an intriguing street sign identifying the Road to Nowhere. Being a journalist, of course, I had to find out what Nowhere was like, so I followed the road to Nowhere. It was winter, and it was dark -- very dark and very cold. I went up to 'nowhere', which was actually, the old DEW Line Station, and when I got up there, and I found that it was eerily flat, which was weird, because everything else around Iqaluit is fairly rough. I don't know how long I was sitting there, contemplating the stars and the sky, but suddenly I looked up, and I realized I was surrounded by hundreds -- I won't say thousands -- but hundreds of caribou!  At first I felt frightened, because all of those animals were bigger than me, and they were all surrounding me by the time that I realized it. I was in the middle of a herd of caribou and they were moving very slowly, almost in slow motion.  I'm getting goose bumps again as I remember the experience. And I suddenly thought, "This is AMAZING!"
-- Paul Kennedy on his first (and only!) confrontation with caribou in the wild.


Guests in this episode: 

  • Walter Bezha is the Special Advisor on caribou, Deline First Nation.

  • Stan Boutin (FRSC) holds an Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta. 
     
  • Anne Gunn contributes to CARMA (The CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network) and to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Deer Specalist Group. 

  • ​​Justina Ray is President and Senior Scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.
     
  • Martin-Hughes St-Laurent is a Professor at the Universite de Quebec a Rimouski.
     
  • James Schaefer is a Professor of Caribou Biology and Director of the Environmental and Life Sciences graduate programme at Trent University. 
     
  • Isabelle Schmelzer is a Senior Biologist with the research section of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Divsion.
     

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