Pelicans and members of the Dolphin-Union caribou herd are now considered to be in heightened danger, the NWT Species at Risk Committee says.
The Dolphin-Union caribou are now assessed as endangered, meaning destruction of the herd could be imminent. The decline in the herd “is a serious concern for local communities,” the committee stated.
The herd, which migrates between Arctic islands and the mainland each year, “has experienced a continued decline since the late 1990s” according to the committee, and is now estimated at 3,815 caribou.
Dangers include increasing ship traffic, climate change’s effects on the ice, and even grizzly bears moving north to establish themselves near the caribou on Victoria Island.
The committee says new restrictions are needed to help the herd, such as more protection of calving areas, harvesting education in communities, and restrictions on ice-breaking during migration periods.
American white pelicans, which form a colony on the Slave River near Fort Smith, are now assessed as a species of special concern, meaning they could become endangered if conditions worsen.
Their Slave River colony is at the northernmost tip of the birds’ range. An estimated 800 to 1,600 breeding adults are part of that group, alongside around 500 other non-breeding birds.
“The birds that occur in the territory only nest in one area and could be wiped out by a single event, such as flooding or disease,” the committee stated in a press release.
However, the pelicans also have reason for optimism. “The population has been increasing, the species is highly mobile and the nesting area could be repopulated or new nesting areas established,” the committee added.
The assessments are recommendations only. The Dolphin-Union caribou won’t formally be termed endangered, nor the pelicans listed as a species of special concern, unless NWT wildlife management authorities agree after talking to nearby communities.