group caribou walking up a snowy hillside photo by doug macnearney

Caribou Program

Applied research focused on caribou in western Canada.

This applied research program was launched in 2013 to address declining caribou herds by providing scientific guidance to reduce the impacts of human activity and prioritize restoration.
A complex web of interactions affects caribou in Canada’s boreal forest.

Research Themes

Linear Features

Caribou ranges in west-central Alberta are criss-crossed by tens of thousands of roads, seismic lines and pipelines. Since the Caribou Program began in 2013, one of areas it has focused on is to understand exactly what impact these disturbances are having on caribou and other relevant species. We have then created GIS maps and tools so that partners can prioritize the restoration of linear features to maximize the benefit to caribou herds.


This suite of projects examines how humans are changing the landscape for caribou, and seeks to provide practical knowledge and tools so that through targeted conservation and restoration, land managers can improve their operations to benefit caribou.

Health and Predation

Key to conserving caribou herds in Alberta is understanding the relative risks of factors such as different predators, disease, stress from anthropogenic disturbance, lack of high quality habitat, and other environmental hazards.

Mountain Pine Beetle & Management

As mountain pine beetle spreads through caribou ranges in Alberta, both the stands wiped out by the beetle itself and the actions taken by people to manage the beetle could impact caribou recovery.

A previous fRI Research program, the Woodland Caribou Program, was active from 1993 until 2005.

Program Lead
Dr. Laura Finnegan
moose standing in a forest
Testing and developing a trailcamera method for population estimates of ungulates in Alberta.
This project will assess wildlife use of wellsites to understand how restoration treatments contribute to important species like moose, bears, and deer.
Balancing MPB control with maintaining wildlife habitat.
left deer browsing in conifer forest in winter. right the same but caribou
This Master's project investigates spatial and dietary overlap between white-tailed deer, mountain caribou, and other ungulate species.
logs and caribou in a snowy forest
This 3-year study will evaluate the potential of new forest management practices to benefit both woodland caribou and growth and yield.
Moose Response to Disturbance in West-central Alberta
This project examines how moose respond to different re-vegetation trajectories on seismic lines after disturbance and different silvicultural treatments used by forestry. A re-vegetation prescription or silvicultural treatment that moose avoid may be less of a problem for caribou.
Woodland caribou calving areas and calf survival in relation to habitat selection, anthropogenic disturbance, and exposure to predation risk
This project will identify caribou calving habitat and relate calf survival to predation risk and anthropogenic disturbance.
Caribou Conservation through Better Cutblock Design
Beginning in 2018, this project will investigate how cutblock design can be less favourable for deer, moose, and elk.
Assessing Pathogen Prevalence and the Health of Ungulates in West-central Alberta Caribou Ranges
This project will gather data on the disease and parasites carried by moose, deer, and elk to determine the risk of transmission to caribou.
Restoration of Seismic Cutlines in Caribou Range in West-Central and North-Western Alberta: maximising success and targeting areas used by alternate prey
A single year Habitat Stewardship Program Species at Risk project with the Caribou Program.
Identifying High Residency Habitat and Functional Movement Paths for Caribou in West-Central Alberta
Locating habitat and prioritizing restoration in west-central Alberta.
Can forestry and silviculture practices help increase caribou functional habitat in west-central Alberta?
This project will evaluate and mitigate industrial impacts on west-central Alberta Caribou herds.
Assessing disease prevalence and caribou health in west-central and north-western Alberta
Collecting baseline health data for Alberta caribou herds.
Potential Impacts of Mountain Pine Beetle and Management Actions on Grizzly Bear and Caribou Populations in West-Central Alberta
This project will determine how MPB-killed stands are impacting caribou and grizzly bear habitat.
Response of threatened species to linear features and landscape change in a managed forest ecosystem in West Central Alberta
How are caribou affected by the roads and seismic lines criss-crossing their habitat?
Analysis and restoration of seismic cutlines in Southern Mountain and Boreal caribou range in west-central Alberta
Starting in 2013, this project is looking at how caribou and wolf behaviour is related to cutlines.
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
3-page summary by Dr. Ian Best for a Caribou Program study.
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Paper from a large collaboration including data from the Caribou Program.
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
Summary of some important findings from Suzanne Stevenson's Master's thesis.
Scientific Publications | Theses
Master's thesis of Suzanne Stevenson, supervised by Dr. Chris Johnson at UNBC and Dr. Laura Finnegan of the Caribou Program.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? Where and when moose are using linear features
Summaries and Communications | Infographics
Infographic about a recent paper from the Caribou Program.
Two field techs smiling and walking down an old seismic line in fall
Photo Galleries | Audio-Visual
The Caribou Program crew is still going strong, picking up the summer's data and preparing sites for winter.
moose standing in a forest
Scientific Publications | Peer Reviewed Papers
Paper from the Caribou Program and University of Montana
Ways to Decrease Predation Risk for Caribou in Forest Harvest Blocks
Summaries and Communications | Infographics
Infographic from Sunny Tseng and the Caribou Program
Suzanne Stevenson's thesis lays the groundwork for understanding the ecology of white-tailed deer in west-central Alberta, and how they relate to threatened caribou populations.
dr. laura finnegan
Dr. Laura Finnegan has led the Caribou Program since its beginning in 2013.
employment opportunity field technician and crew lead
Applications are now closed. Thank you to all who applied!
courtney burk heather daw sam chevalier
New roles for three great people.
We are looking for a Senior Biologist for the Caribou Program!
A crew member on a quad, arms wide, in a wildflower meadow with foothills in the background
The Caribou Program field techs share some experiences and pictures from the summer!
young caribou
Two post-doctoral researchers at UBC and UNBC are partnering with the Caribou Program.
quad driver in heavy bush
The Caribou Program is hiring two Research Technicians and two Field Technicians. Closing date: February 28.
suzanne on a snow covered slope
Suzanne Stevenson's career path in biology and her advice to others.
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Dr. Laura Finnegan
Program Lead
Tracy McKay
Tracy McKay
Wildlife Biologist
Leonie Brown
Leonie Brown
Solene Williams
Solène Williams
Research Technician
courtney burk
Courtney Burk
dr. chris johnson
Dr. Chris Johnson

Woodland caribou are declining across Alberta and British Columbia because industrial activity has degraded and fragmented their habitat. They have been listed as Threatened since 2003 under the Species at Risk Act. Large areas of relatively undisturbed, interconnected habitat with few predators are essential for the recovery of caribou. Caribou Webtools is designed to help support conservation efforts and provide habitat information for natural resource managment. The webtools include five habitat models and a disturbance dashboard that allow users to edit footprint and run landscape scenarios. Caribou Webtools was developed by the Caribou and GIS Programs.

Go to Caribou Webtools