An endangered relative of reindeer, better known as woodland caribou, spend a fair amount of their time at home on the range along the border between Idaho's Panhandle and southern British Columbia. But, of course, they get a fair amount of attention each Christmas. This holiday season has brought extra emphasis to the caribou due to a new plan unveiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help ensure the rare caribou's population.
It's believed that there are only 1,700 woodland caribou along the U.S.-Canadian border. They're an isolated, one-of-a-kind herd and are considered one of the most endangered species in the continental United States. The group inhabits thick, high-elevation forests, feeding primarily on tree lichen. North of the border, they're called Canadian Reindeer.
Environmentalists worry that the herd is threatened by climate change and what they call "habitat fragmentation across vast stretches of the caribou's range."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to protect as critical habitat some 375,562 acres of old-growth wilderness in the region in order to rescue the animals.
"Christmas has come early for America's only reindeer relative," said Mike Leahy, of Defenders of Wildlife. "To protect endangered animals, we must protect the places they live."
The proposed U.S. designation of critical habitat is still subject to public scrutiny in the coming months.