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Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in Canada - 2014 [Final]

Recovery Feasibility Summary

Recovery of southern mountain caribou is considered to be both technically and biologically feasible across the species’ distribution in Canada based on the following four criteria outlined in the draft SARAPolicies (Government of Canada, 2009):

  1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance.
    Yes. According to current best estimates, there are approximately 5,800 southern mountain caribou across BC and Alberta. These animals are capable of successful reproduction and are available to improve LPU growth rates and abundance, thereby achieving self-sustainability.

  2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration.
    Yes. Some LPUs of southern mountain caribou have sufficient suitable habitat within their ranges. For other LPUs where sufficient suitable habitat is currently unavailable, sufficient habitat could be made available through habitat management and/or restoration.

  3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated.
    Yes. The primary threat to most LPUs of southern mountain caribou is unnaturally high predation rates as a result of human-caused and natural habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. These habitat alterations support conditions that favour higher alternate prey densities (e.g., moose [Alces americanus], deer [Odocoileus spp.], elk [Cervus elaphus]), resulting in increased predator populations (e.g., wolf [Canis lupus], bear [Ursus spp.], cougar [Puma concolor]) that in turn increase the risk of predation to southern mountain caribou. This threat can be mitigated through coordinated land and/or resource planning, and habitat restoration and management, in conjunction with predator and alternate prey management where LPU conditions warrant such action.

  4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe.
    Yes. Recovery techniques (e.g., protection and management of forested habitat, habitat restoration, predator and alternate prey management, hunting regulations, stewardship initiatives) are available to achieve the population and distribution objectives for southern mountain caribou. There is uncertainty with regard to the effectiveness of some of these techniques, as they have not yet undergone a sufficiently long trial period.

Although current evidence supports the conclusion that the recovery of all LPUs is biologically and technically feasible, small LPUs (e.g. LPUs with <50 animals), particularly those isolated from the core southern mountain caribou population, are at greater risk of not becoming self-sustaining. In these situations, a LPUmay have greater difficulty withstanding threats such as increased predation resulting from altered predator/prey dynamics, or mortality from avalanches and other natural events. Such LPUs may not experience enough immigration to maintain genetic diversity and therefore will be at greater risk of not persisting over the long-term. The cumulative effects of habitat changes from resource and other developments increases the level of threat. It is possible that, over time and through unforeseen circumstances, there may be situations where recovery of a particular LPU proves not to be biologically or technically feasible. This would affect the likelihood of achieving the population and distribution objectives.

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