Instead of implementing caribou recovery plans, the Ontario government has allowed logging and logging roads to continue to expand into unfragmented forests, causing critical caribou habitat to be lost. Scientists have warned that delays in addressing industrial expansion will result in a lower likelihood of recovery.
Boreal woodland caribou have been scientifically assessed as threatened with extinction across Canada. Of 51 populations of boreal woodland caribou recognized in the federal recovery strategy, 37 were shown to be declining. They need large, intact swathes of boreal forest to survive, and that habitat is disappearing.
In Ontario, a major driver of their decline is industrial logging and logging roads, which fragment their habitat and alter predator-prey dynamics by giving wolves new and effective ways to hunt them.
More than five years ago, under the federal Species at Risk Act, the Canadian government appointed a blue-ribbon panel of scientists to identify the habitat caribou need to survive and recover. These scientists discovered a relationship between the amount of disturbance in a caribou range and whether a population increased or declined.
Below a certain level of usable habitat, caribou populations begin to wane. Using this analysis, the federal government directed provinces to complete caribou range plans to maintain or restore the habitat boreal caribou need to survive. The provinces and territories were given five years from the Oct. 5, 2012, release of the federal recovery strategy, but failed to produce range plans.