Province declares woodland caribou 'threatened'
Manitoba's woodland caribou will be listed as threatened under the province's Endangered Species Act, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers announced Thursday.
Woodland caribou live in the boreal forests across Canada. In Manitoba, an estimated 1,800 to 3,200 of the animals live east of Lake Winnipeg, in the Interlake, and in the North.
"We have a pretty stable population of caribou, but we don't just want them to survive. We want them to actually thrive," Struthers said.
Federal officials, environmentalists and even the paper company Tembec — on whose land some of the animals reside — have been calling for years on the province to take steps to help protect the animal.
"We could have, a year ago, made the announcement, but we wouldn't have been doing it with the co-operation of the First Nations in the area, who actually have to live in the area," Struthers said.
"I would much rather take a little longer, be thorough, do it properly and then move forward in a sure-footed way, rather than simply going for headlines and taking the easy way out."
The province will now be able to count on the co-operation of local First Nations, as well as Manitoba Hydro and Tembec, when implementing its strategy to maintain the caribou population, Struthers said.
Under the act, a "threatened" species is one that is likely to become endangered. An "endangered" animal is one that could imminently disappear from Manitoba or become extinct.
It is illegal to "kill, injured, possess, disturb or interfere with" a threatened species, or to destroy or disturb its habitat, except under certain circumstances.
Struthers said the province will be able to count on the co-operation of local First Nations, as well as Manitoba Hydro Tembec, which work in the areas of Manitoba where the caribou live.
Boreal woodland caribou were once found throughout the boreal forest, but they have mainly disappeared from southern areas. Experts blame predators, parasites, diseases, uncontrolled hunting and human activities affecting habitat for the losses.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada declared the western Canadian population of boreal woodland caribou as a vulnerable species in 1984. In 2003, the federal government listed boreal woodland caribou as threatened.