Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional staff have received reports of a rare sight in northwest Montana: caribou.
Residents have recently documented sightings of woodland caribou near the U.S.-Canada border. The sightings include the potential for a bull and a cow in separate locations.
Caribou, members of the deer family, are native to northwest Montana but have almost completely disappeared from the contiguous United States over the last half century, according to a press release from Fish and Wildlife.
Woodland caribou herds once stretched from central British Columbia to Idaho, Montana and Washington. The decline in population is largely attributed to high mortality linked to habitat fragmentation, alteration, loss of old growth forest, and subsequent predation impacts. Woodland caribou are now protected in the United States and British Columbia.
Caribou have been known to roam from the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges in southern British Columbia into Montana, Idaho and Washington but the occurrences have become increasingly rare.
Caribou are similar in size to mule deer but have different coloration, large round hooves and unique antlers. Even cow caribou can have visible small antlers.
“There are three weeks left of big-game hunting season in Montana. Hunters are reminded to be sure of their target and beyond,” said Neil Anderson, FWP Region 1 wildlife manager.
After confirming reports of the recent sightings, Montana FWP contacted wildlife biologists in British Columbia and informed them of the sightings. FWP will continue to work closely with partners in British Columbia on the conservation of the species.
Story by David Sherman, MTN News