Last Wild Caribou in the Lower 48 States Is No Longer Wild

She will eventually be released but her future is unclear.

The American wild caribou is nearly no more.
Getty Images

The last mountain caribou to call the contiguous United States her home made her exit from the wild earlier this month.

After a team of biologists from British Columbia captured the female caribou in the Selkirk Mountains, just north of the United States-Canada border, she was relocated to a captivity pen near the city of Revelstoke, Atlas Obscura reported. She’ll live there for about a month as the only surviving member of the southernmost caribou herd, the last group to live on both sides of the border.

Caribou populations have been dwindling over the years, according to AO, as their habitats become increasingly threatened by people seeking natural resources like timber, gas, and oil, and climate change. Irregular weather patterns brought on by global warming have crippled the wild animal’s food sources, making it increasingly difficult to survive.

A lack of caribou make life difficult for other creatures, as well. The hulking animals are nicknamed an “umbrella species,” meaning their survival directly impacts the entire ecosystem where they reside. Caribou droppings fertilize various plants that are crucial to the diets of other animals and predators like grizzly bears and wolves rely on caribou as a key food source.

The lone female is expected to be integrated by researchers into another herd in Canada of about 146 others. Mountain caribou are an ecotype of their own, however, so it is unclear if she will assimilate naturally and survive with her new Canadian family.

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