U of S to lead $2-M study of Woodland Caribou in northern Saskatchewan

With more than $2-million in federal, provincial and industry support, University of Saskatchewan biologists have launched a five-year study on the population trends and critical habitat of threatened woodland caribou in the Boreal Shield of northern Saskatchewan.

The team's findings will assist the Saskatchewan government in developing a woodland caribou range plan aligned with the federal Species at Risk Act, a plan that will provide guidance to communities and industries on sustainable resource and infrastructure development.

Saskatchewan's Boreal Shield is Canada's only remaining woodland caribou range where critical habitat has not been defined for the species, which is classified as "threatened" by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

"This collaborative project brings together many partners from government, industry and communities to answer key scientific questions about caribou populations and their habitat, while training 20 U of S graduate and undergraduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and technicians in wildlife and habitat conservation," said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

The team has been awarded $1.2 million from the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), $210,000 from Environment Canada, and more than $600,000 from industrial partners including Cameco Corporation, SaskPower, AREVA Resources Canada Inc., Rio Tinto, and the Saskatchewan Mining Association. Industry is also providing substantial in-kind support.

"Our Government is committed to protecting and preserving our rich biodiversity. I am proud to be part of a Government that supports projects like this one, which will help protect caribou in northern Saskatchewan," said Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

Led by U of S wildlife ecologist Philip McLoughlin and plant ecologist Jill Johnstone, the team will determine caribou population status and trends, how much and what type of habitat is needed for a self-sustaining caribou population, and to what extent disturbances such as fire influence caribou and their predators, including wolves and black bears.

"This may be one of our best opportunities in Canada to study woodland caribou in a region little modified by humans where the most significant habitat disturbances are major fires and climate change," McLoughlin said.

He noted that in the past month, 94 caribou and 26 wolves have been collared to track animal movements, survival and reproduction using radio-collars, following methods approved by the Canadian Council on Animal Care.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment is a key partner, providing support for research equipment and analyses, and arranging for engagement with First Nations, Métis and other communities.

"Maintaining woodland caribou within their current range in northern Saskatchewan is a priority for the Government of Saskatchewan. A healthy caribou population is indicative of the integrity of the broader landscape and a healthy ecosystem overall," said Saskatchewan Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff.

"The ministry will be able to use the information collected in this study to fill knowledge gaps and to develop range plans, which will help guide decisions on caribou conservation and northern development."

A short, broadcast-quality video clip showing the capture and collaring of woodland caribou for tracking purposes is available for download at:


For more information, contact: Â


Philip McLoughlin

Associate Professor, Department of Biology

College of Arts and Science

Cell: 306-221-0266

306- 966-4451


Jennifer Thoma

Media Relations Specialist

University of Saskatchewan


Share this story