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Kootenai Tribe aims to revive only herd of caribou in United States






Caribou in the Southern Selkirk Mountains in Idaho. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Correction: Caribou indeed live in Alaska. The original post should have made clear that the Selkirk herd is the only caribou herd in the lower 48 states.

The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is working to revive the only herd of caribou living in the the lower 48 states.

The tribe is developing a recovery plan for the South Selkirk Mountains herd as part of an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The effort is extremely critical -- only about a dozen animals are left in the U.S., The New York Times reports.

"Right now, predation is the biggest problem, primarily wolves and cougars," Norm Merz, a wildlife biologist for the tribe, told The Times.

The Selkirk herd spends most of its time in Canada, where their numbers are higher but where they still face threats. Like the Kootenai, the Kalispel Tribe in Washington, where the animals also live, is concerned about the future of the species.

“Wolves and grizzly bears suck up a lot of the money,” Bart George, a biologist for the tribe, told The Times. "Where is the support for this charismatic species?"

Despite their herd's extremely low numbers, the Bonner County and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association are seeking to have the Selkirk herd removed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act. According to the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative leaning group that has fought the federal government on sacred sites and other issues, the isolated population does not qualify under the law.

Read More on the Story:
America’s Gray Ghosts: The Disappearing Caribou (The New York Times 10/4)

Related Stories:
Kootenai Tribe to create recovery plan for last wild caribou herd (08/31)