“Grey Ghost” Caribou Effectively Extinct, Down to Three Females

April 18, 2018 at 11:44 pm

The cross-border mountain caribou is now effectively extinct after an aerial count found only three survived the winter, all of them female.

The alarming census of the population of southern mountain caribou comes after years of warnings from scientists and conservation groups.

“Last year there was 11 and now there are three. And critically, there are no males this year. Without a male, it’s game over,” said Mark Hebblewhite, a Canadian wildlife biologist at the University of Montana.

The South Selkirk herd had the distinction of being among the southernmost caribou in the world and the last to roam into the lower 48 states of the United State.

Caribou across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec face a similar fate.

In the 1800s, the southern mountain caribou traveled south into the United States. The last in Montana was documented in 1958.

Only the South Selkirk herd — nicknamed the Grey Ghosts for their rare sightings — still wandered across the border into Washington and Idaho.

Scientists attribute the caribou’s demise to overhunting, climate change and loss of habitat to logging and oil and gas drilling.

Southern mountain caribou need large tracts of interconnected old-growth forest where they can separate themselves from predators.

Environmental and conservation groups call the loss of the South Selkirk a wake-up call for the protecting the remaining caribou in Canada.

On Friday, the B.C. government announced $2 million to aid in caribou habitat restoration.