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Finally, the caribou issue is addressed

How appropriate that at the time of year when reindeer are all the rage everywhere you look, their North American counterparts are the focus of a long, long, long overdue breeding program.

How appropriate that at the time of year when reindeer are all the rage everywhere you look, their North American counterparts are the focus of a long, long, long overdue breeding program.

Here at the Outlook, we were pleased to see that Parks Canada, along with the Calgary Zoo and the B.C. provincial government, are all on board with a program which will see woodland caribou raised in captivity at a zoo ranch, then released into mountain parks (page 5).

There’s no question an overall conservation strategy was needed if the animals were to remain on the landscape in our national parks. Of all the natural areas to be found in Canada, our parks are where all stops need to be pulled out to protect species.

Part of Parks’ mandate after all, is ensuring ecological integrity, and this includes ensuring no species are lost.

Further, it’s wonderful that researchers with the zoo, Parks Canada and the government of B.C. will be involved with aspects of the research to implement the reintroduction and monitor it into the future.

It’s also wonderful that at some point, if all of the program’s efforts don’t end up being directed toward bulking up Jasper herds first, some captive-bred caribou may again be found roaming in Banff.


Before anybody gets too giddy with the possibility of caribou making a comeback in Banff and other national parks, we would like to point out that this newly-minted captive breeding program is being developed long, long, long after caribou herds were allowed to dwindle, without a finger being lifted or a dollar spent, it would appear, to the point of virtually vanishing.

‘A day late and a dollar short’ comes to mind.

The only reason there are no caribou in Banff at present is because no steps were taken to augment the resident herd over the past couple of decades – to the point where the final handful of animals were wiped out in a single avalanche in 2009.

The situation is little better in Jasper, where herds have also been in steady decline over the years. In some cases, Jasper herd numbers have declined to the point where they could be wiped out in a single disastrous event as well.

As per Parks Canada materials – According to the Canada National Parks Act, the law governing national parks in Canada, “ecological integrity” means, with respect to a park, “…a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes.”

Being that caribou are a native species, it is disappointing that the situation has spiralled downward to the point where augmentation is no longer an option in Banff. Surely adding to the stock of native animals would have been preferable as they were truly native to BNP.

Parks’ scientific staff, who, we assume, have been warning of the dire decline of caribou in their jurisdiction, but can’t write cheques to correct situational oversight, have our sympathy.

But enough of pointing out the glaringly obvious; we just hope we don’t have to watch the number of mountain parks grizzly bears dwindle to an easily counted handful.

Despite mistakes made, we do hope the captive breeding program is successful to the point of putting caribou back on the Banff National Park landscape.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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The Rocky Mountain Outlook is Bow Valley's No. 1 source for local news and events.
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