It is believed that boreal caribou populations in Manitoba are stable. Boreal caribou across Canada were assessed as "threatened" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2002 and listed as "threatened" under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. Manitoba's boreal caribou populations were listed as threatened under Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act in June, 2006.
Manitoba has developed a 10-year Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy that outlines management initiatives and direction for the conservation of boreal caribou across Manitoba. The strategy lays out a new comprehensive, management plan that will help ensure the long-term persistence of boreal caribou in the province.
Boreal caribou are a medium-sized (100-250 kg) subspecies of caribou belonging to the deer family (Cervidae). Their coat is brown with a white neck, mane and rump. Caribou are the only cervid in which both males and females have antlers. Their large crescent-shaped hooves provide support for walking on snow or moist peat. Hooves are also used to dig through the snow for lichens and other ground forage. This subspecies of caribou inhabit the boreal forest and are usually larger and darker than other subspecies and ecotypes.
Boreal caribou occur in a broad geographic range across the boreal forest region of central Manitoba. These caribou are widely dispersed in the boreal zone from approximately the Black Lake area in the southeast to the Lynn Lake area in the northwest. The historical southern extent of boreal caribou in Manitoba was from the Manitoba/Minnesota border. Caribou no longer occur south of the Winnipeg River in southeastern Manitoba.
Boreal caribou generally inhabit lichen-rich areas of the boreal forest, selecting for mature pine, black spruce and tamarack forests intermixed with peat lands. Large tracts of undisturbed habitat are required for boreal caribou to spread out on the landscape to avoid disturbance and reduce predation.
Boreal caribou habitat can be threatened by human-caused and natural disturbances such as logging, mining, construction of linear features, recreational activity, fires and forest disease. Linear developments facilitate the movement of predators and increase the potential for human disturbance, which can impact caribou on the landscape. Activities that alter habitat may cause an increase in moose and deer abundance in caribou ranges resulting in increased predation on caribou by wolves.
There are currently fifteen boreal caribou ranges identified across Manitoba. These ranges represent groups of caribou that use the same areas year round. These fifteen ranges are identified within nine larger management units. Management units contain areas currently used by caribou and areas that may be used by caribou in the future. This is to ensure management of boreal caribou occurs across the broad landscape instead of smaller isolated areas.
Boreal caribou continue to use traditional areas. Management efforts are directed at ensuring that boreal caribou remain part of the wildlife mosaic in Manitoba for centuries to come. Currently there are boreal caribou advisory committees established in the eastern, northwest and northeast regions of Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship and are comprised of First Nations, Métis, industry, government and non-government organizations and local wildlife associations.