Caribou Protection & Recovery
To mitigate the decline of woodland caribou, OSLI has collaborated with experts to discuss the feasibility of creating a fenced area large enough to contain and protect the primary population of a herd of woodland caribou in the ESAR caribou range. The fenced protection zone is one of several management actions OSLI is exploring to protect Alberta’s caribou population.
In its pre-feasibility study phase, OSLI asked wildlife experts for expressions of interest in developing proposals for the caribou protection zone. The enclosure would be an OSLI-supported initiative that would require co-operation from the Alberta government and input from First Nations and local land users prior to any OSLI action.
A large fence of this kind (that encompasses 194 square kilometers) has been successfully used at Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton, Alberta, to protect large mammals such as elk, moose, deer and bison.
Woodland caribou are designated as “threatened” under Alberta’s Wildlife Act and Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The federal and provincial governments define threatened as “a species likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not reversed.”
Threats to Alberta’s woodland caribou populations include hunting by predators and humans, vehicle collisions, climate change, disease and land use activities such as oil and gas development, forestry and human settlement. Clearing trees for oil and gas activities (seismic, access, facilities, etc.) can create paths that allow for greater access by humans and predators, which alter caribou habitat quality by increasing forest fragmentation.
A workshop was held in May 2012 to discuss pursuing a fenced predator exclosure for woodland caribou herds. Approximately 50 caribou experts from government, academia, environmental groups and industry participated in the workshop, which identified both risks and opportunities that may occur when building a “fenced predator exclosure.” The wrokshop concluded that an exclosure is technically feasible however, further research needs to be done to determine the viability of an exclosure.