Two field wildlife biologists and four First Nation Guides are staying at our Miminiska Lodge on the Albany River while they explore islands on the lake for Woodland Caribou. This amazing animal is often called the Ghost of the Boreal because of its fur coat that offers perfect camouflage. While scientists rarely see the caribou, traces in the form of scat, bedding areas, and tracks are proof enough for their existence.
Both Mike Jones (left) and Brian Ratcliff (right) make the recordings of their evidence for the study that will be used for a land use plan for areas north of the Albany River. A complete report on the project’s purposes and progress can be heard here in this week’s podcast.
So…What is a Woodland Caribou?
Good Question. The boreal forest Woodland Caribou are larger and darker than their relatives the Barren-ground Caribou of the tundra. They generally live in smaller herds and are less migratory. Females swim out to remote islands in June to give birth to their young – one or two calves – away from natural predators like wolves, lynx, or black bear. Both sexes grow antlers, but they are larger in males. In winter Caribou eat mainly ground lichens, and in the snow-free months herbaceous plants and leafy shrubs.
The range of Woodland Caribou in northern Ontario has receded dramatically over the past century with the encroachment of human development, and habitat disturbance and alteration. Caribou require quite large areas of mature, coniferous forest. Changes in habitat composition that increase populations of moose and deer also negatively affect caribou by increasing the number of potential predators within their range.
The Woodland Caribou is listed under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007, which protects the species from being killed, harmed, possessed, harassed, collected, and/or sold. Woodland Caribou is classed as a game animal in Ontario, although the season has been closed to non-native hunting since 1929.