Natural and Human Barriers Constrict Mountain Caribou Range

Mapping the landscape features preferred or avoided by mountain caribou reveals almost no high quality terrain remains for these endangered ungulates south of the Trans-Canada Highway in British Columbia. Habitat that poorly meets their needs is scattered throughout the range that mountain caribou currently occupy, rendering these areas vulnerable to the animal's extirpation.

The dwindling mountain caribou ecotype inhabits the wetter landscapes of its historic range where forests are older than 140 years. The ungulates particularly stick to old-growth forests of cedar and hemlock or spruce and subalpine fir. Caribou select areas away from people, roads and motorized access, and avoid younger forests.

Mountain caribou's distribution into secluded subpopulations is shaped by a combination of natural features and human-made structures. The subpopulations are isolated by glaciers, alpine tundra, hydro-electric reservoirs, highways and farmland.


Clayton D. Apps and Bruce N. McLellan. 2006. Factors influencing the dispersion and fragmentation of endangered mountain caribou populations. Biological Conservation. 130(1): 84-97.

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