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Last Lake Superior caribou herd may be down to 30

Jan 07, 2018 09:13AM ● Published by Editor

A caribou on Lake Superior's Michipicoten Island. Photo courtesy Christian Schroeder

By John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune - Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ontario wildlife officials are finalizing plans to save the last remaining Lake Superior-region caribou herd, which continues to dwindle as wolves take their toll on Michipicoten Island.

Experts say as few as 30 caribou may remain on the Lake Superior island where more than 450 caribou roamed as recently as 2014, before wolves crossed over the ice from Pukaskwa National Park on the mainland.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has a plan to trap and then helicopter several caribou from Michipicoten Island to the nearby Slate Islands. Brent Patterson, research scientist and caribou expert for the ministry, said Wednesday that the goal is to start moving caribou within two weeks if snow and ice conditions are suitable.

 

Ontario Natural Resources Minister Kathryn McGarry announced on Dec. 7 that the province would work with the tribal wildlife officials of the Michipicoten First Nation to move the animals "soon."

But caribou supporters, critical of provincial officials for moving too slowly on the transfer, said far fewer than 30 caribou may now remain on Michipicoten Island based on recent surveys and estimated predation rates. On average about one caribou is being killed by wolves every three days.

Patterson said an aerial survey was conducted of Michipicoten Island on Dec. 20 and, along with trail camera photos, he estimates 30 or more caribou remained there, enough to transport several to the Slate Island to restart a viable population there.

"Based on recent observations ... a sufficient number of caribou remain on the island to support a mid-January translocation to the Slate Islands," Patterson told the News Tribune.


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