Mountain Caribou

A recent aerial survey revealed there are only three wild caribou left in the contiguous United States. Biologists say the chances to save them are slim, but an international recovery team is still trying.

Before the 19th century, thousands of woodland caribou ranged from Washington to New England. But then those herds were decimated by overhunting, logging and broken-up habitat.

Now you can count the number of wild caribou left in the Lower 48 on one hand. They live in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened for comment a proposed plan to change the status of a herd of caribou in northern Idaho and northeastern Washington from endangered to threatened.

The agency on Tuesday opened the 30-day comment period based on new information.

The agency made the initial proposal last May after deciding to lump the small herd into the Southern Mountain Caribou population that has another 14 herds in Canada.

But Canadian officials recently determined those herds are faltering and should also be listed as endangered.

Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday, a small herd of mountain caribou found in the Northwest will retain federal protection, but it will be as a threatened species rather than endangered.

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the federal government over cuts in protected habitat in Idaho and northeastern Washington for the last known herd of mountain caribou.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Last November, the agency opted to slash protected habitat for the species in Idaho and Washington from 375,000 acres to about 30,000 acres.

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

Idaho's U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “go back to the drawing board” on the agency’s woodland caribou proposal. 

They released a letter Thursday expressing “deep concerns” with the agency’s idea to designate nearly 600 square miles in the Selkirk Mountains as critical habitat for the endangered species.