Where is Parks Canada’s Plan for Jasper’s Disappearing Caribou?
October 6, 2020
One month after Jasper National Park quietly posted news that its Maligne caribou are officially extirpated and that two other caribou populations are drastically low in numbers, Parks Canada has still not revealed to Canadians how it plans to prevent the demise of its Tonquin and Brazeau caribou populations and re-occupy the Maligne range with caribou. Today Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is:
“Parks Canada needs to tell Canadians about its caribou breeding plan, and show that it’s managing caribou ranges better for their recovery, re-occupation and ability to thrive,” says Carolyn Campbell, AWA conservation specialist. “Given the lead time involved in breeding, every month matters to recover the caribou under Parks Canada’s care for future generations of Canadians.”
AWA recognizes that Jasper Park has lowered wolf predation risk to caribou in recent years by reducing and refocusing elk and wolf activity into valley bottoms, and by closing backcountry skiing in caribou ranges until mid-February or March 1, depending on the range.
However, AWA believes downward spiraling caribou populations and other scientific evidence indicate that Parks Canada’s access management must be further strengthened to support caribou survival and re-occupancy. A captive breeding program only makes sense if caribou have high quality, secure habitat to occupy once they are released.
The disappearance of the Maligne herd and the perilous state of the Brazeau and Tonquin herds belies this claim from Jasper’s 2017 species at risk action plan: “Species at risk, their residences, and their habitat are therefore protected by existing national park regulations and management regimes.”
AWA Access Proposal for Tonquin and Brazeau Caribou Survival and Maligne Re-Occupancy
Tonquin (10 or less breeding females)
Maligne (recently extirpated, prime Jasper National Park caribou range for re-occupation)
Brazeau (less than 10 breeding females)
Canadians may see Jasper Park as a pristine area for caribou, but human land-use decisions in Jasper failed them. Artificially high elk populations were encouraged, eventually leading to a boom in wolf numbers. Many decisions in the latter 20th century creating and maintaining human access on winter roads, trails and ski hills in key caribou areas reduced caribou range occupancy and robbed caribou of their natural ability to avoid overlap with wolves. Access and wildlife management changes were too little, and came too late to stop downward spiraling caribou numbers.
AWA encourages all those who are concerned to write Environment and Climate Change Canada Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Jasper Park Superintendent Alan Fehr (email@example.com), copying AWA’s firstname.lastname@example.org, and request that Parks Canada:
For more information:
Carolyn Campbell, Alberta Wilderness Association (403) 921-9519