More Lake Superior caribou could be on the move, this time to Caribou Island

Helicopters are heading back to Michipicoten Island on Lake Superior this week to try to rescue more caribou.

Southernmost caribou herd in the world facing possible extinction

One of the first of 10 caribou from Michipicoten Island, near Wawa is relocated 130 km north to Slate Islands in January. There is another mission this week to move as many as six caribou from Michipicoten to nearby Caribou Island. (MNRF/ supplied)

Caribou Island got its name in the 1700s when passing sailors noticed it was teeming with the animals.

But it wasn't long before there were no caribou left on Caribou Island.

The same happened with the rest of the Lake Superior basin, to the point that there are only a handful of a once plentiful herd left.

And now the remote island very close to the U.S. border, could be the place where Lake Superior Caribou launch their big comeback.

Crews from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Michipicoten First Nation are planning to use a helicopter to transport as many as six caribou there from Michipicoten Island, 35 kilometres to the north.

Last month, the MNR successfully moved nine caribou from Michipicoten, where a herd that once numbered in the hundreds has been devoured by wolves, to the Slate Islands 130 kilometres to the north.

'Back-up' caribou population

Michipicoten First Nation lands and resources coordinator Leo Lepiano says the goal is to have a second herd that could be used to reintroduce caribou to Michipicoten Island and perhaps the mainland.

"The plan is basically to establish a back-up population. Whether we'll be able to capture any is not a certainty at this point," says Lepiano.

He says Caribou Island, which is owned by a private American conservancy foundation, is one of the most remote spots on Superior, where the herd is unlikely to be threatened by wolves or other predators.

Lepiano says caribou are culturally very important to his community, but very few people in Michipicoten have ever seen one.

"A big part of wanting to do this project is wanting to reconnect youth to the landscape and the importance of science and monitoring for stewardship," he says.


Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to