Based on this year’s winter survey, the federally endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd may be down to three individuals – all females. That would not be good for continued viability of the species on national forest lands. We can try to blame Canada for what’s happened to this cross-boundary herd, but, “The mountain caribou have struggled as old growth forests have been thinned by logging and other industrial activities, George said. With thinner forests the caribou have become more susceptible to predation.” There has been a lot of that on the Idaho Panhandle and Colville national forests over the years, though maybe not recently. However, as recently as 2007, the Forest Service lost a lawsuit brought because of their failure to protect caribou from snowmobiles.
It would be hard to say that national forest management has had nothing to do with their current status. Mark Hebblewhite, a Canadian wildlife biologist at the University of Montana and a science adviser to the Canadian government put it this way:
“It’s game over … The functional loss of this herd is the legacy of decades of government mismanagement across caribou range. It is completely unsurprising. Bad things happen to small populations.”
Meanwhile, north of the border, the boreal woodland caribou may become Canada’s spotted owl, as conflicts with logging are driving it towards extinction. A letter from the Alberta government to Ottawa said “now is not the time to impede” an economic recovery currently underway in Alberta. Maybe when there are three females left.