COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - The protected status of a small population of reindeer in the Northwest is getting a second look. Snowmobilers and an Idaho county that depends on winter snow sports petitioned the government to delist the animal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to do a status review on woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains of Idaho and Washington. They’re part of a larger herd from Canada.
Wildlife managers from both sides of the border consider these caribou to be distinct from other herds in North America. But attorneys for snowmobilers and Bonner County, Idaho, are asking U.S. wildlife biologists to re-examine that assumption.
Noah Greenwald at the Center for Biological Diversity hopes the U.S. maintains protections for the last remaining caribou found in the Lower 48.
“What if we had said that with the bald eagle? What if we had said, 'Well, there's plenty of bald eagles in Canada and Alaska, who cares if they go extinct.' I don't think anyone would have thought that was acceptable.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently designated 30,000 acres as critical habitat for the caribou. That was far less than the original proposal of nearly 400,000 acres.
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Southern Selkirk Mountains Caribou (US Fish & Wildlife Service)