" The Last Wild Caribou of the Lower 48 Has Been Placed in Captivity
It will soon be released into another herd, but scientists do not know if caribou will even again inhabit the contiguous United States"
Here's a pic of Minnesota's last verified woodland caribou, taken in 1980.
Maine Biologists Seek to Restore Caribou to Their Former Range
MORE than a century ago, the Maine woods teemed with caribou. Today all that remains of those graceful animals after overhunting and disease are names on maps. But researchers here are trying hard to restore them, at least in some numbers, to the forests of northern Maine.
Early last month 12 woodland caribou were released in Baxter State Park. By 1993, the researchers hope to have a herd of 100 or more.
''It's the first time that we're really documenting, once and for all, whether caribou can be reintroduced into their former natural range,'' said Dr. Mark McCollough, a biologist who is supervising the privately financed Maine Caribou Reintroduction Project. ''The answer we find in Maine will be very applicable to other states and provinces'' of Canada.
The docile caribou are the same species as the reindeer of Europe. Male caribou are distinctive for the prominent bronze antlers they grow in the fall breeding season. Females can grow to 250 pounds, while males can range from 375 to 600 pounds during a life of up to 17 years. Last Seen in 1908
Several hundred thousand caribou roamed Maine in the 1800's, sketchy records indicate. But hunters and city people liked the taste of caribou meat, leading to mass killings. The state discontinued caribou hunting by 1898, but it was too late. The animals were last seen in the state in 1908. Continue reading the main story
In addition, timber harvesting opened up forest areas, permitting white-tailed deer to move north in the mid-19th century and mingle with caribou. The deer carry a parasite, the brainworm, which is benign to them but deadly to caribou and moose, Dr. McCollough said.
The decline of Maine caribou may have been hastened by the parasite, a concern that remains pre-eminent in the current experiment.
Caribou still live in Alaska, but the only other place they can be found in the lower 48 states is northern Idaho, where there are no white-tailed deer and where a similar reintroduction project is under way. That project involves animals from British Columbia. Besides New England, caribou could once be found in the Rocky Mountain and Great Lakes states.
(rest of story at link)
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ An effort to restore caribou to the wilds of Maine has been pronounced a failure after predators killed many of the ungainly reindeer.
The Maine Caribou Project Inc. announced Wednesday that it is abandoning its 4-year-old effort. Project officials said they doubt they can raise the money needed to transplant enough caribou to create a self-sustaining herd.
Of the 32 caribou released in Maine, 25 are confirmed dead - 12 killed by bears and coyotes. The rest are unaccounted for, but biologists believe only two or three are alive, and they apparently have lost the radio collars used to keep track of them.
Four caribou calves also were born in the wild. Two died of unknown causes; a bear and bobcat killed the others.
Caribou once were so abundant in Maine’s north woods that a city was named after the animal. But overhunting and disease left the North American reindeer extinct in Maine more than 80 years ago.
The restoration effort, which began with a caribou roundup in a remote corner of Newfoundland, was the second since 1963.
When the lastest caribou releases were planned, project leaders’ main worry was the deadly parasite known as brainworm.
?The whole black bear thing was something none of the (biologists) considered to be a critical factor in the beginning,? project spokesman Richard B. Anderson said.
?I think it’s possible to restore the caribou to its former range,? he said. ?But you need a lot of animals.?
That would take more money that project leaders believe they can raise in a weakening economy.
Biologists believe they’d need 50 to 100 more caribou to succeed, but it would cost at least $300,000 to capture, transport and monitor that many animals. The project, which officially ends Dec. 31, has raised $500,000 so far.
?We have come to realize that only under an extraordinary set of circumstances would it have been possible to complete a project of this magnitude without organizational and financial support of federal or state wildlife agencies,? project leaders said in a statement.
The project’s failure shows money ?is far better spent to conserve Maine’s endangered species today, while they still exist,? the statement said.
Project leaders said they will share information with officials in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Idaho, where caribou reintroduction projects are proposed or under way.
The last caribou from a native Maine herd was spotted on mile-high Mount Katahdin in 1908.
In 1963, about two dozen caribou were released in northern Maine’s Baxter State Park. All of the animals disappeared because of poaching, disease, predators and natural dispersal, biologists believe.
In 1986, more than two dozen caribou in Newfoundland were shot with tranquilizer darts and taken by helicopter and in trucks to enclosures at the University of Maine in Orono, 1,200 miles away.
Biologists kept the ?nursery herd? in Orono to breed young caribou for eventual releases in Maine’s wilds. Of the dozen released in Baxter park in April 1989, only one was known to have survived by the end of that year.
But project leaders discovered that caribou were more susceptible to brainworm when penned. So all 20 animals in the breeding herd were released, and plans were being made to import up to 75 more caribou from Newfoundland.
In January, however, the Baxter park’s board denied permission for a spring release. Board members criticized the way the project had been run.
Kodiak 's Link
Votes win. Caribou lose.