Caribou: Airlift From the Brink!
Posted on: December 17, 2017
Jill Legault and a caribou calf.
In this pre-2014 photo, Jill Legault is approached by a caribou calf on Lake Superior’s Michipicoten Island, which is some 13 km./8 mi. offshore in the Wawa, Ontario area. Until recently, the island was home to over 600 caribou. The population has collapsed since wolves crossed to the island over the ice in 2014. (Photo: Brian McLaren)

Caribou to be Airlifted to the Slates

A December 11th news release from Michipicoten First Nation states that On Thursday December 7th, the Honourable Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Kathryn McGarry announced the ministry would be acting to preserve Lake Superior caribou by moving caribou to the Slate Islands.

Wolves that crossed to the Slate Islands and Michipicoten Island during the winter of 2014 have decimated caribou populations. While wolves are still present on Michipicoten Island, it is believed that there are no longer any wolves on the Slate Islands.


Link to an April, 2014 Infosuperior photo and caption about caribou crossing from the Slate Islands to the mainland.

Further Background Information – Link to a November 30th article, “Caribou, Ice and Wolves – Death Spiral?

Map of Eastern Lake Superior
According to a media release from Michipicoten First Nation, caribou from Michipicoten Island will be airlifted to the Slate Islands. Michipicoten First Nation had pushed for relocation to several islands, including Montreal and Leach Islands.

Michipicoten First Nation Pushes for Action

The Minister’s decision to preserve the last caribou of Lake Superior came after extensive lobbying efforts by Michipicoten First Nation. The First Nation believes that without action, Lake Superior caribou populations will likely be extirpated this winter. In a call with Minister McGarry on December 4th, Michipicoten First Nation Chief Patricia Tangie requested the immediate translocation of caribou from Michipicoten Island to the Slate Islands, as well as to Leach and Montreal Islands. She also requested a commitment to moving caribou back to Michipicoten Island when the island is free of wolves.

A caribou on Michipicoten Island.
A caribou on Michipicoten Island. (Photo: Christian Schroeder)

In a recent media release, Michipicoten First Nation stated they believe that simply relocating caribou to the Slate Islands, where it is believed there are no wolves, is a “half-measure.” They say their request for trans-location is informed by the Precautionary Principle and that moving caribou to several islands provides greater insurance for long-term survival. Michipicoten First Nation first requested the non-lethal removal of wolves in April, 2017. According to Michipicoten First Nation, this option was ruled out in November, leaving only two alternatives:

  • cull the wolves
  • move the caribou.

It was deemed that the cull of the 15-20 wolves on Michipicoten Island could not be carried out by Michipicoten First Nation due to prohibitive costs and the difficulty of locating all of the wolves without access to their GPS collars, which have been regularly placed on wolves by the MNRF since 2015. The Ministry was not supportive of a cull.

The media release voices the First Nation’s concern about provincial land management and species at risk but states that Chief Tangie looks forward to continuing to work with Minister McGarry on the caribou file.

The release points out that ancestors of the citizens of Michipicoten First Nation have a long history of sustainable land management, a regime to which the First Nation aims to return. The release says Michipicoten First Nation will continue to review the MNRF’s management processes with cautious optimism.


Twitter – or @SuperiorCaribou

PodcastCritical Situation for Lake Superior Woodland Caribou

FlickrCaribou Photos

NewspaperDecember 10 Duluth News Tribune Article