April 28, 2014 12:13 pm

Woodland caribou to be studied in northern Saskatchewan

A woodland caribou at the Calgary Zoo. University of Saskatchewan biologists will study the animal to help define the critical habitat for the threatened species in northern Saskatchewan.

Bill Quayle / The Canadian Press

SASKATOON – A new study will look at population trends and critical habitat for woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan.

Biologist at the University of Saskatchewan will monitor the animals over a five-year period in the Boreal Shield, the remaining woodland caribou range in Canada where critical habitat has not been defined for the species.

The animal is classified as “threatened” by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

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Researchers will determine how much of habitat is needed for a self-sustaining population and to what extent disturbances affect not only the caribou but their predators, including wolves and black bears.

In the past month, 94 caribou and 26 wolves have been outfitted with GPS devices.

The data collected will help mining and construction companies look at ways to be more cost-effective when developing responsible resource plans.

“A healthy caribou population is indicative of the integrity of the broader landscape and a healthy ecosystem overall,” said Ken Cheveldayoff, Saskatchewan’s environment minister.

“The ministry will be able to use the information collected in this study to fill knowledge gaps and to develop range plans, which will help guide decisions on caribou conservation and northern development.”

The study is supported by the federal and provincial governments along with Cameco, SaskPower, AREVA, Rio Tinto and the Saskatchewan Mining Association.

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