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Woodland Caribou

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Caribou river crossingThe distribution of Woodland Caribou in Alberta has experienced a reduction due to the rapid decrease in their available range-land. As a result of this increasingly shrinking range, many populations have been fragmented, particularly in parts of Alberta's Rocky Mountains.  Several recently occupied caribou ranges have also been observed to contract or disappear such as Deadwood, Slave Lake, northern/western portions of Little Smoky, northern part of Calahoo Lake, and the Pinto/Nose Creek area. 

In an attempt to protect the caribou populations, resource extraction companies such as petroleum and natural gas, timber, peat mines are all asked to follow specific land-use guidelines for operations within caribou management zones. It should be noted that some areas known to be occupied by caribou were excluded from caribou management zones for administrative and other reasons. Also some areas recently abandoned by caribou were excluded from the management zones even though habitat potential for caribou remains. The caribou management zones in the Northeast Boreal Region were established based on locations of radio collared caribou relative to habitat associations. In the Northwest Boreal Region, caribou management zones were based on a combination of radio telemetry studies, surveys, local knowledge, analysis of land-satellite imagery, and habitat associations. To augment knowledge of caribou distribution, some wildlife managers have instituted a system of sighting cards whereby details of caribou sightings are gathered from the public. Many resource extraction companies have involved their employees in this sighting card program. Additional information on the distribution of caribou in Alberta has come from caribou sightings recorded during surveys flown for other big game species.

Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 30 (2001), with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

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