Caribou, Monarch butterflies: Canada’s iconic migrants at grave risk

From The Province:

OTTAWA, Dec. 5, 2016 /CNW/ – From Coho Salmon to Caribou to the much-cherished Monarch butterfly, migration is a key component of Canadian biodiversity.  Migratory species, migration and movement all figured prominently at the semi-annual Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) deliberations on species at risk, held November 27 – December 2nd.

Young Coho Salmon from the Interior Fraser River basin leave the watershed and live much of their adult lives at sea before migrating back to their native rivers to lay eggs.  The Committee considered threats in both fresh and salt water, and the wildlife species’ status was assessed as having improved from Endangered to Threatened. Despite ongoing active management and some improvements, the situation faced by Interior Fraser River Coho Salmon is still perilous.

Another iconic migratory species considered by COSEWIC was Caribou. Several populations migrate hundreds of kilometres en masse between their calving and wintering grounds every year.  Caribou have experienced alarming declines.  Both science and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge indicate unprecedented declines in several herds with some human activities on the landscape being novel, potentially disrupting natural cycles.  According to Justina Ray, co-chair of the Terrestrial Mammals Subcommittee, “Caribou are, sadly, very sensitive to human disturbances, and we are disturbing Caribou more and more.  These stressors seem to be interacting in complicated ways with rapid warming in the North.  Many of the great northern Caribou herds have now fallen to all-time lows, and there is cause for concern that they will not rebound in the same way they have before.”  COSEWIC considered the status of two such populations for the first time.  Both were found to be in trouble: The Caribou Barren-ground population was assessed as Threatened, while the much rarer Torngat Mountain population in far northeastern Canada was assessed at even higher risk – Endangered.”

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