Since the woodland caribou in Montana's Selkirk
Mountains were listed as an endangered species in 1983, the caribou
population has more than doubled, from 23 animals to 50. But
without intensive management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Selkirk's caribou are doomed, says David Tallmon, a biologist
at the University of Montana. The population is still so small that
gender and age classes are skewed, leaving the caribou vulnerable
to random environmental stress, according to Tallmon's computer
modeling. The immediate pressure comes from poachers, who account
for 80 percent of caribou deaths; because the caribou are so rare
(the Selkirks support the only population in the lower 48 states),
their antlers and chestnut-colored coats are desired trophies.
Logging roads give poachers more access, and the logging has eaten
into habitat. The Fish and Wildlife Service has designated critical
caribou habitat, but environmentalists want the zone expanded and
other herds established. Tallmon's 14-page study, The Population
Viability Analysis of the Selkirk Woodland Caribou, was done for a
graduate genetics course and the environmental group, Alliance for
the Wild Rockies. Copies can be obtained from the Alliance, P.O.
Box 8731, Missoula, MT 59807 (406/721-5420).