Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
Other/Previous Names: Woodland Caribou (Newfoundland population)
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Newfoundland and Labrador
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2014
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) are a medium-sized member of the deer family with relatively long legs and large hooves, which facilitate survival in northern environments. Caribou are central to the culture, spirituality, and subsistence lifestyles of many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across Canada. Caribou exhibit tremendous variability in morphology, ecology, and behaviour across their circumpolar range. In 2011, COSEWIC recognized 12 designatable units (DUs); this report assesses three DUs: Newfoundland population (NP; DU5); Atlantic-Gaspésie population (GP; DU11); and Boreal population (BP; DU6).
Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are medium-sized (100-250 kg) members of the deer family. The taxonomy (classification) and systematics (evolutionary history) of caribou in Canada are uncertain. Based on mitochondrial DNA, caribou in North America evolved from two founding groups (clades) that differentiated in isolation during the last (Wisconsinan) glaciation. The southern clade supposedly evolved south of the continental ice sheet, whereas the northern clade was in a glacial refugium in Alaska and adjacent Arctic Canada. Populations that contained unique southern gene types were the Pukaskwa local population in Ontario and two in Newfoundland. In contrast, exclusively northern types occurred in four Yukon populations and in some forest-tundra and tundra ecotypes of barren-ground caribou (R. t. groenlandicus) in northern Canada. Most woodland caribou populations in the mountains of southern British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta and in the boreal forest and taiga across Canada are mixtures of the two types. Some 'mixed' populations in the taiga exhibit two phenotypes and behave like the forest-tundra ecotype of barren-ground caribou.
Atlantic-Gaspésie population was designated as Threatened in April 1984. Status re-examined and uplisted to Endangered in May 2000. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002. Last assesment based on an update status report. Boreal population was designated Threatened in May 2000. This newly defined population is comprised of a portion of the de-activated "Western population" and all of the de-activated "Labrador-Ungava population". Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report. Southern Mountain population was designated Threatened in May 2000. This population was formerly designated as part of the "Western population" (now de-activated). Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report. Northern Mountain population was designated Not at Risk in May 2000. This population was formerly designated as part of the "Western population" (now de-activated). Status re-examined and uplisted to Special Concern in May 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report. Newfoundland population designated Not at Risk in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2000 and in May 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report.
This population was last assessed as Not at Risk in 2002 when the population was 85,000. This population has fluctuated in abundance over the last 100 years and presently has declined by approximately 60% over the last 3 caribou generations. The decline was due to limited forage when the population was at high density, harvest, and predation. Various indices suggest that the population is improving but there is concern that Eastern Coyote, which has recently arrived to Newfoundland, may become a significant predator and influence recruitment such that the population continues to decline.
A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to "assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species".
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2014 to September, 2015) from November 23 to November 28, 2014 and from April 27 to May 1, 2015. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 56 wildlife species.
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2014-2015 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 21
Data Deficient: 1
Not at Risk: 1
Of the 56 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 40 that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 24 of those wildlife species resulted in a confirmation of the same risk status as the previous assessment.
The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection of prohibitions and recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk.
Please submit your comments byMay 4, 2016, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 4, 2016, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Species at Risk Public Registry website