Walrus, caribou face extinction risk in Canadian Arctic

May 2, 2017
The walrus is both unique, and especially sensitive to environmental changes, experts noted

Both Atlantic walrus and eastern migratory caribou are at risk of extinction in Canada's Arctic, a panel of experts has warned.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which met in Whitehorse, said Monday that the number of Canadian northern wildlife species at risk now stands at 62.

"Over the past few decades, the areas inhabited by the few thousand High Arctic walruses and the more numerous Central and Low Arctic population have shrunk and continue to do so. As the climate warms and sea ice recedes, interaction with industry and tourism is increasing," the experts' report said.

"These threats, layered upon ongoing harvesting, led the to recommend a status of Special Concern for both populations."

The is both unique, and especially sensitive to environmental changes, experts noted.

"Walruses have been very important to the Inuit, both as food and in their culture, and they remain so today," said COSEWIC member Hal Whitehead.

And "walruses are particularly sensitive to disturbance, and certainly deserve special attention," he stressed.

The committee also sounded the alarm for eastern . A famous , named for the George River, in Quebec and Labrador numbered over 800,000 in 1993.

"The figure has fallen to an unprecedented low of a few thousand animals. A second major herd is also in serious decline," the experts said.

Graham Forbes, co-chair of COSEWIC's Terrestrial Mammals Subcommittee, voiced concern about sensitivity of caribou to human activity, which he said was aggravated by swift northern climate change.

"Shrubs increasingly cover landscapes that were once dominated by lichen, caribou's major winter food source, and overharvest continues. We are worried that these factors may make it very hard for herds to recover," he said.

Explore further: Canada caribou and monarch butterfly "endangered": experts

Related Stories

Canada caribou and monarch butterfly "endangered": experts

December 6, 2016

Canada's caribou population has reached "all-time low" levels, particularly in the eastern Arctic, where the animal was classified as endangered Monday along with the monarch butterfly, according to a committee of scientific ...

Caribou the missing piece of arctic warming puzzle

May 1, 2013

In the first study of its type in Canada, new research has shown caribou have a role to play in climate warming in the arctic. Despite declining herd numbers, caribou grazing is controlling plant growth in the arctic and ...

Alaska biologists research mystery of declining caribou herd

November 29, 2016

The size of a large caribou herd in Alaska's Arctic region has dropped by more 50 percent over the last three years, and researchers who have tentatively ruled out hunting and predation as significant factors for the decline ...

Recommended for you

How human brains became so big

May 23, 2018

The human brain is disproportionately large. And while abundant grey matter confers certain intellectual advantages, sustaining a big brain is costly—consuming a fifth of energy in the human body.

Rehabilitating lactate: From poison to cure

May 23, 2018

George Brooks has been trying to reshape thinking about lactate—in the lab, the clinic and on the training field—for more than 40 years, and finally, it seems, people are listening. Lactate, it's becoming clear, is not ...

Chimpanzee calls differ according to context

May 23, 2018

An important question in the evolution of language is what caused animal calls to diversify and to encode different information. A team of scientists led by Catherine Crockford of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary ...

How a cell knows when to divide

May 23, 2018

How does a cell know when to divide? We know that hundreds of genes contribute to a wave of activity linked to cell division, but to generate that wave new research shows that cells must first grow large enough to produce ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.