Caribou regional threat|graham_inglis||02/11/04 at 16:18:34|graham_inglis|xx|0||Caribou not thriving in Lower 48 [contiguous U.S.]
Herd under 50 due to habitat encroachment and cougar predation

By Nicholas K. Geranios
Associated Press Feb. 2, 2004

SPOKANE, Wash. Despite 20 years of recovery efforts, the last wild herd of woodland caribou in the Lower 48 continues to struggle for survival.

Only 41 of the caribou, a close relative of the reindeer, were counted in the 2003 annual census within the greater Selkirk Mountains north of Spokane.

This caribou herd was listed as endangered by the federal government in 1983 and remains under pressure from loss of habitat and predation by cougars.

"The population of caribou has been stable for a couple of years now," said Tom Buckley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Spokane.

But the herd is not self-sustaining, and the number of caribou remains low despite transplants brought in by wildlife officials. Between 1987 and 1998, 113 caribou from other regions were brought to the Selkirks. Without the transplants, the herd already would be extinct, researchers contend.

Importing caribou from Canada and Alaska into the Selkirks has not been as successful as wildlife officials hoped. Some of the animals left the ecosystem and moved north. Others were killed by predators, were poached or died of unknown causes, officials said.

Scientists believe the herd must reach 200 caribou to survive on its own for the long term. ||