Range Recession of Woodland Caribou


Caribou live in the far north of North America, Europe and Asia in spectacularly large numbers with tens of thousands of animals to a herd. Caribou can use many different kinds of habitat from Arctic tundra to coniferous forests, and the migratory ecotypes travel thousands of miles a year. The woodland caribou however has developed a different lifestyle. They stay at home in the woods and occupy only one place, one very large place. Woodland caribou form small bands of perhaps a dozen animals and live in reclusion in the deep woods. When the females of this ecotype disperse in the spring to avoid predation on the calves and mothers by wolves, a small band of caribou will use many thousands of hectares. Woodland caribou are now found only in the far north of Ontario whereas as recently as 1900 they were in New England and the states of the Upper Midwest. At the rate woodland caribou are disappearing, if nothing is done, they should be wiped out of Ontario in about one hundred years. We spoke with James Schaefer about the natural history and habitat needs of this remarkable animal.