Sudbury

Lake Superior caribou numbers growing, although herd still not out of the woods

The Lake Superior caribou who were close to extinction a few years ago have been busy making other caribou.

Last count shows 46 caribou living on remote Caribou Island and Slate Islands

Lake Superior caribou numbers have grown since 15 were airlifted to Caribou Island and the Slate Islands, but the mainland herd may have vanished. (photo: Brian Mclaren)

The Lake Superior caribou who were close to extinction a few years ago have been busy making other caribou.

In 2018, there were concerns the southernmost herd in the world could vanish, thanks to hungry wolves on Michipicoten Island and the Slate Islands.

Fifteen of the animals were airlifted off of Michipicoten, with six taken to Caribou Island and nine to the Slates, joining two existing males there.

The populations have now grown to 30 caribou on the Slate Islands and 16 on Caribou Island.

"It's still a little worrisome I have to say," says Gord Eason, a retired government biologist living in Wawa who has been helping with the efforts to protect the caribou.

"We can probably keep caribou around on those islands if we're vigilant."

Eason is concerned though that there haven't been any signs of mainland caribou who had been living in the bush on the north shore of Superior.

Tracks found on Lake Superior's Caribou Island, have been identified as being from a caribou calf. Six animals were airlifted there in 2018 and the population has grown to 16. (Leo Lepiano)

Eason says while wolves were also removed from Michipicoten Island, there have been sightings that suggest some are still there.

He says the long range plan is to move caribou back to Michipicoten to grow the herd even more and then attempt to reintroduce them to the mainland. 

"As soon as you see them,  there's something about them," says Eason.  

"They were part of the environment for a long, long time before we got here. Part of the history of our Native people and part of our history as well."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

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 erik.white@cbc.ca

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