Presented by: Matt Webb, Russell Turner, Derek Leask, Jessica Lagimodiere, Riley Bartel, Ryan Brook and Connor Staub
The Cape Churchill caribou herd, part of the Eastern Migratory caribou population, resides along the western coast of Hudson Bay and has been largely unstudied. However, they are locally important to hunters and visiting tourists, as well as an ecological keystone species as a grazer and prey source. As a product of the 2020 Beyond Borders Caribou Workshop, we developed a collaborative team of academic researchers, Parks Canada staff, and Manitoba Métis Federation staff. Our on-going efforts have focused on developing and fortifying relationships and identifying common goals centered around caribou conservation and the greater ecosystem. The summer range of the Cape Churchill herd is almost completely protected by Wapusk National Park, however the winter range is largely unprotected, existing outside of the park boundaries. The development of a proposed Indigenous Protected Conservation Area (IPCA), led by the Manitoba Métis Federation is a priority goal of our group, with caribou being its focal species. Our objectives are to: (1) monitor the Cape Churchill herd annually to estimate population composition and long-term trends, (2) develop and monitor a grid of n=97 trail cameras on summer range to characterize caribou occurrences, group size, arrival and departure dates to and from seasonal ranges, (3) continue our 23 years of intensive habitat monitoring, (4) monitor the impacts of fire on the winter range using remote sensing, (5) study wolf occurrences in relation to caribou on summer range, (6) incorporate local and traditional knowledge, and (7) engage local and Indigenous youth and elders.