Caribou dawsoni subspecies
Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus dawsoni
Other/Previous Names: Woodland Caribou (Queen Charlotte Islands population),Woodland Caribou Dawson's subspecies
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2000
Last COSEWIC Designation: Extinct
SARA Status: No Schedule, No Status
Image of Caribou dawsoni subspecies
There is some uncertainty about how different groups of caribou are related to each other. Technological advances in genetic analysis have clarified some issues, but studies are ongoing. In the meantime, caribou are classified by ecotype (where they occur and how they behave) for their management and conservation. There are three major types of caribou in Canada: Peary, Barren-ground, and Woodland. The Caribou dawsoni subspecies, traditionally grouped with the Woodland Caribou, is extinct. Results of recent research indicate that the caribou in the Dolphin and Union herd are unique. They resemble large Peary Caribou, but appear to be more closely related genetically to Barren-ground Caribou. Peary Caribou, the smallest, lightest-coloured, and least understood of the three races, are found only on the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. They have access to a vast area of land, but only a limited portion contains suitable habitat. Barren-ground Caribou, slightly larger and darker, are found for much or all of the year on the tundra from Alaska to Baffin Island. They are by far the most abundant caribou; some herds in northern Canada number in the hundreds of thousands. They migrate seasonally, often along predictable routes, to the sparsely treed northern coniferous forests. Woodland Caribou, the largest and darkest-coloured, are irregularly distributed throughout our boreal forest and mountains from the island of Newfoundland to British Columbia. They are not migratory, but some herds, especially those in mountainous regions, move to different elevations with the seasons. Recent genetic analyses indicate that the Caribou dawsoni subspecies may not have been as different from caribou on the mainland as previously believed; therefore, it may not merit its status as a distinct subspecies. However, it was undoubtedly at least a distinct population that is no longer represented in the fauna of British Columbia, and thus deserves its status as extinct (as applied by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC).
The limited information that is available on the Caribou dawsoni subspecies describes the animal as a small, pale caribou that stood about one metre at the shoulder. The antlers were small, poorly developed and may have been rarely borne by females.
Distribution and Population
The Caribou dawsoni subspecies is known only from the northwestern part of Graham Island, the northernmost of the two largest of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). It is known only from five specimens, and has not been seen since the 1930s. It was declared extinct by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1984. There is no information available on former population sizes for this caribou but it is suspected that it was never very numerous.
The Caribou dawsoni subspecies was known to inhabit treeless bogs in the humid boreal forest, a habitat typical of Woodland Caribou.
Nothing is known of the biology of the Caribou dawsoni subspecies.
Reasons for extinction
The reasons for the decline and disappearance of the Caribou dawsoni subspecies are unclear. It has been speculated that hunting, and the deterioration of habitat due to climate change, were both important factors.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
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