(Rangifer tarandus caribou)
Kingdom: Animalia Class: Mammalia Order: Artiodactyla Family: Cervidae
Critically Endangered (extinction likely)
Idaho woodland caribou have large, concave hoofs that spread widely to support the animal in snow and soft tundra. The feet also function as paddles when caribou swim. Caribou are the only member of the deer family (Cervidae) in which both sexes grow antlers. Antlers of adult bulls are large and massive; those of adult cows are much shorter and are usually more slender and irregular. In late fall, caribou are clove-brown with a white neck, rump, and feet and often have a white flank stripe. The hair of newborn calves is generally reddish-brown. Newborn calves weigh an average of 13 pounds (6 kg) and grow very quickly. They may double their weight in 10-15 days. Weights of adult bulls average 350-400 pounds (159-182 kg). However, weights of 700 pounds (318 kg) have been recorded. Mature females average 175-225 pounds (80-120 kg). Caribou in northern and southwestern Alaska are generally smaller than caribou in the Interior and in southern parts of the state. The Service is currently working to recover the Selkirk Mountain population of the woodland caribou.
To protect this critically endangered species by expanding vital habitat from 30,000 to the original 375,000. To outweigh the protests of a few vocal snowmobilers, off-road vehicles users, and people who seem to relish in the idea that a species may well die so they have access to play. It reflects a life void of consciousness for other species.
Recreational opportunity is a privilege, not a right! Caribou have the right to survive. The US Fish and Wildlife Service must work to improve habitat and work closely with their Canadian counterparts to increase caribou numbers.
Let the County Commissioners hear your voice!
Plight of the IdahoWoodland Caribou
The story of the Woodland Caribou is one all too familiar to those of us who care about wildlife and conservation. At the time of European settlement, the Woodland Caribou could be found from New England, New York, the Upper Great Lakes all the way to Washington State. By the 1970’s woodland caribou, was a memory, in the eastern United States. By 1980, only 25-30 animals persisted in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. In 1984, the species was listed as endangered, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The population had declined by the usual causes:
• hunting, legal and illegal
• Highway mortality
By 1985, a plan was underway by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the plan called for:
• Controlling poaching
• Minimizing caribou deaths via collisions with cars.
• Improve habitat by closing roads.
• Augmenting the existing population, or creating a second population outside the Selkirk range.
What was ignored by the agency and remained sacrosanct was logging, snowmobiles or off-road vehicles.
In 1987, some 24 more animals were brought in from British Columbia and released in the Selkirks, south of where the core pop-ulation was found. Twenty-four, more in 1988 and twelve, in 1990.
Yet, the population did not increase and only 13 of the transported animals remained, the culprit according to Game and Fish officials was predators.
In a study called Woodland Caribou: A Conservation Dilemma, writers Peter Zager, L. Scott Mills, Wayne Wakkinen and David Tallmon point out another option, one that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seem to ignore on many fronts. In rethinking the temporal scale of recovery, the authors point out that “Decision-makers, managers, and the public expect recovery programs to demonstrate highly visible, high profile progress over a relatively short time frame. Their most salient point “It is unreasonable to expect populations to respond quickly to recovery efforts that do not first consider habitat restoration that may take decades.
In the last few days we were able to speak directly with Fish and Wildlife Service caribou point man Bryon Holt. Holt in a relaxed manner conveyed the story of the Woodland Caribou as one a species hanging on, despite repeated inroads by predators (meaning mountain lions.)
argued that caribou had never covered a wide-range of the moun-tains, rather they pointed to one study done in 1983, by Greg Service: that study was used to force the agency to reduce its proposed critical habitat range from 375,000 to just over 30,000 acres.
The woodland caribou of the Selkirks are hanging on by a slim biological thread, but they have become perfectly adapted specifically to the Selkirks, using snowpack and their larger-than-life hooves to get into the old growth canopy, and enjoying their life-sustaining diet of arboreal lichens.
Yet, this small measure of safety has angered those in the snowmobile community, who want to blast across the Selkirks and have their way—wildlife be dammed. Representing them, is the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation; a group opposed to most anything that dares to share the earth with humans.
Their argument is that this species is not endangered, it’s finished, thus should not have protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to consider this and as a result could remove any critical habitat and snowmobiles continue their battle in the court ordered injunction, hope that soon they will be zooming across the area, caribou be damned.
It’s become an oft-repeated story of the ‘sage brush mentality’—man before wildlife. If a species disappears, no problem, just don’t restrict our ability to recreate. Local elected officials seem to bring spirit to the debate, and the educational fallout of our country, only makes this situation that much more pressing.
He continuously downplayed any role that logging may have had in impacting habitat. He also informed me that populations on the Canadian side have also dropped. This year in the Canadian Purcell Mountains just over the Idaho-Washington border, wolves are returning and Canadian wildlife biologists are tagging both wolves and caribou to see what may unfold.
Of course in this country winter also means snowmobiles and snowmobilers. While they are temporarily banned by court-ordered injunction, they are fighting to regain the right to plow across the Selkirks. In meetings held by Fish and Wildlife, angry groups of locals
Feds are sued over unjustified, job-killing caribou regulations
Bonner County, Idaho; November 15, 2012: After federal officials ignored a petition to have the Southern Selkirk Mountain caribou population removed from the Endangered Species Act list, attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit in federal court to compel a response from the government.
PLF attorneys represent Bonner County, which has been hit hard economically because of the caribou listing, and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, whose thousands of members have been unjustifiably barred from using recreational trails.
The petition that PLF and its clients submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last May notes that the caribou population in Bonner County and the surrounding area isn’t distinct in a legally relevant way that would support federal regulation.
“The delisting petition that we submitted in May was based on the government’s own science,” said PLF attorney Daniel Himebaugh. “As we pointed out, the federal government’s findings suggest that the caribou population should be dropped from the ESA list. The problem is the Service did not look at the Selkirk caribou population in relation to the caribou species as a whole. The government singled out a small population without determining whether it was legally discrete or significant in the manner that the ESA requires.”
“Unfortunately, the government has not responded to our petition,” Himebaugh continued. “The agency is not serving the taxpayers, or the cause of responsible environmental regulation, by ignoring legitimate questions about its policies. Therefore, on behalf of our clients, and all taxpayers, we’re forced to tell the agency, ‘we’ll see you in court.’”
The listing’s economic threat extends to school funding
The economic impact of the unjustified caribou listing threatens to intensify under the federal government’s proposal to designate 375,562 acres as “critical caribou habitat” in Idaho’s Bonner and Boundary counties and Washington’s Pend Oreille County. New restrictions could be triggered on logging and road building, as well as winter recreation.
Governor Butch Otter’s Office of Species Conservation pointed out to the Spokane Spokesman-Review that the proposed critical habitat includes tens of thousands of acres of state timberland that generates funding for public schools. The new habitat restrictions reportedly could cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue.
NOTE: The Pacific Legal Foundation is a group dedicated to destroying the environment and undermining other progressive causes. They MUST be fought at every turns.
Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen issued this statement: “There are hundreds of thousands of caribou on the North American continent, so there is no justification for putting Idaho caribou on the ESA list and imposing job-killing land use restrictions as a result.
“This regulatory overkill puts winter tourism and recreation on the endangered list. It’s very disappointing that we now have to go to court, because federal officials ignored our petition that was based on their own findings. With our court case, we’re attempting to enforce reasonable environmental policies — and accountability on the part of federal regulators.”
Snowmobilers: we support science-based environmental policies
The Idaho State Snowmobile Association (ISSA) is a statewide organization representing approximately 4,000 people, including 41 clubs, individuals, and many businesses throughout Idaho. Approximately 54,000 snowmobiles are registered in Idaho each year.
Sandra Mitchell, ISSA’s public lands director, issued this statement: “This lawsuit was necessary, unfortunately, because federal officials would not respond to the petition we’ve already filed, showing that caribou in Idaho don’t belong on the ESA list.
“The caribou listing is closing off recreational opportunities for thousands of people, and undermining the tourism industry, without scientific basis, without a showing that recreationists cause harm to caribou.
“ISSA members don’t want to endanger any species. We have gone to court because our freedoms, and the region’s recreational economy, are endangered by unjustified regulations.”
PLF represents both the County and ISSA free of charge — as it does for all its clients.