US lists lower 48 caribou as endangered, designates habitat

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Federal officials have announced protections for woodland caribou and their habitat in the lower 48 states not quite a year after the last caribou using that habitat was captured and relocated farther north in Canada.

The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday following an environmental lawsuit means caribou might eventually return to northern Idaho and Washington.

The agency designated the southern mountain population of woodland caribou as endangered and included 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) in Idaho and Washington as critical habitat requiring special protection.

Nearly all the estimated 1,200 caribou in 15 herds roam in British Columbia, but one herd also crossed into Idaho and Washington along the international border.

That herd’s decline is generally attributed to logging, habitat fragmentation, predators, and increased snowmobiling.