Caribou and You

Caribou need large, intact ecosystems to survive. Canadians also rely on the services, including fresh air, clean water, and foods, that these ecosystems provide. By saving caribou’s remaining habitat in Canada’s Boreal forests and Northern tundra, we are protecting our health, as well as a way of life for Indigenous peoples. Healthy ecosystems can also slow the effects of climate change.

Caribou have been a fundamental part of our northern ecosystems for more than 2 million years. They have shaped and been shaped by the harsh climates and landscapes and are built for survival where few others can live. Predators like wolves, bears, wolverines, and even humans have relied on the regular appearance of caribou as a source of food for thousands of years, many adapting their hunting patterns to follow caribou migrations.


Canada’s caribou are a resilient species, having survived multiple ice ages, natural events like forest fires, and periods of overhunting. However, even a resilient species cannot adapt overnight to environmental changes that directly undermine their survival strategies.

Caribou are vulnerable to extensive fragmentation and destruction of their habitat, which exposes them to predators and decreases their access to food. As the climate changes, increasing natural pressures like fires and pests may also result in more young forests and other impacts to their habitat.

Various caribou herds are in trouble right now – having been diminished to the point where they are not able to increase or even maintain the size of their herds. Updated caribou management plans and investment in their conservation are needed to help prevent further loss of caribou in Canada. 

What CPAWS is Doing

Across Canada, CPAWS is working with provinces, territories and the federal government, progressive companies, local communities and First Nations to develop conservation measures for boreal woodland caribou on public lands, including those leased to resource companies.


  • Encouraging provinces and territories to implement the legal tools needed to protect at-risk caribou herds across Canada, focused on woodland caribou;
  • Designing and implementing range plans for all boreal woodland caribou herds that include effective protection for core caribou habitat;
  • Working with forestry companies and indigenous peoples to develop caribou habitat conservation proposals on lands leased to forest companies, to help provincial governments find sustainable solutions;
  • Integration of robust caribou conservation considerations in land use management and other tools that could reduce or halt the threats to critical habitat, such as forest management laws, permitting regulations, and environmental impact assessments practices.

Our chapters are also doing work on other caribou ecotypes where these are significant in their jurisdiction, such as barren ground caribou or southern mountain caribou. Learn more about what our chapters are doing to protect caribou in their regions:  

Take Action

Help us protect caribou and their boreal home

Help us demonstrate that Canadians care about our caribou and want them and their boreal home protected. Sign the pledge! 

Help keep oil and gas out of the porcupine caribou’s calving grounds

Tell Canadian banks to join RBC in pledging not to fund oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Send a letter! 


Caribou 101: learn the basics about Caribou2016 UPDATE: Boreal Woodland Caribou Conservation in Canada (December 2016)

Before October 2017, the federal government will need to report on the progress that has been made by all governments in implementing, and meeting the objectives of, the national boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy released in 2012 under the Species-at-risk Act (SARA). Earlier this year, CPAWS started a one-year clock, hoping to inspire governments to act before this first report. Looking across Canada today, it will be difficult to demonstrate that sufficient action has been taken to protect caribou.2015 UPDATE: Boreal Woodland Caribou Conservation in Canada (2015)

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has been conducting annual reviews of progress by federal, provincial and territorial governments to protect and recover Canada’s remaining boreal woodland caribou1 populations since 2013, the year after the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal population, in Canada2 was issued by the federal government under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).Looking for Action: Caribou losing ground (December 2014)

This report is our second annual review of Canada’s progress in conserving boreal woodland caribou habitat since the 2012 release of the federal recovery strategy for boreal caribou under the Species-at-Risk Act (SARA).Population Critical: How are Canada’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Faring? (2013)

In our first annual assessment of how well provinces and territories are doing in meeting their obligations to protect boreal caribou since the federal recovery strategy for the species was released in 2012, the majority get bottom marks for lagging so far behind in protecting one of Canada’s most iconic species at risk.