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article imageThe last six mountain caribou in U.S. being sent to Canada

By Karen Graham     Nov 6, 2018 in Environment
The six remaining members of the South Selkirk caribou herd remaining in the lower 48 states are being moved further north into British Columbia, Canada, a desperate measure to try to save the mountain caribou's most southerly herds,
This effort means that the mountain caribou will disappear from the contiguous United States. The transfer of the remaining caribou marks the end of decades of trying to reintroduce the large animals into Idaho and Washington state.
"In the absence of extreme measures, the herd is functionally lost,” said Candace Batycki of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative in July, according to Digital Journal. “There are only three females remaining – we don’t know if any of them are pregnant. It’s a pretty dire situation.”
The six caribous will be transferred to a captive breeding pen this winter in Revelstoke, which was set up deep in the bush to keep caribou away from predators. The Kalispel Tribe in Washington has tried for years to revive the herd, but the effort was unsuccessful, reports CBC Canada.
Caribou licking salt from roadway in British Columbia in 2005.
Caribou licking salt from roadway in British Columbia in 2005.
Joseph N Hall (talk).
“This is what extinction looks like, and it must be a wake-up call for wildlife and habitat managers in both Canada and the United States,” said Joe Scott, international programs director for Conservation Northwest. The news “marks the tragic end of an era,” he told the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash.
The last of the Grey Ghosts?
Adding to the news about the Selkirk herd, another herd, known as the South Purcells herd in British Columbia, has three bulls and two cows, and are in similar straits, reports CTV News Canada. This herd and the Selkirk herd are just two of the 10 herds of caribou that Canada has declared as being under "imminent threat" of extinction.
Of the 10 herds in Canada that are under threat, seven are located in British Columbia, while the other three are found in Alberta. At the last aerial count, researchers counted three females and one male left in the Purcell herd, down from 16 animals last year.
Jasper NP  Alberta  Canada. Caribou herds in Alberta are on Crown lands.
Jasper NP, Alberta, Canada. Caribou herds in Alberta are on Crown lands.
ThartmannWiki (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Weighing close to 600 pounds, the mountain caribou feed on slow-growing lichen that relies on centuries-old trees to develop. But slow growth forests are being logged, legally and illegally, and as civilization encroaches further into what used to be wilderness, natural habitat is disappearing.
Add in mining and drilling for fossil fuels and the whole ecosystem is turned upside-down. These factors, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and climate change are not specific to just Canada, but the U.S. as well. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, as much as 70 percent of Alberta’s oil sands reserves are found within caribou habitats.
"I'm not surprised the animals are being taken out of the habitat," says Candace Batycki, an advocate with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. "They are basically the walking dead. This is a last-ditch effort. The question we have to ask ourselves is, 'how did it get to this state?'"
More about mountain caribou, six members, British columbia, Conservation, United States