Southern mountain caribou are currently distributed across 38 subpopulations, comprising 24 LPUs. Most subpopulations have undergone long-term declines in numbers. The current overall number of southern mountain caribou is estimated to be approximately 5,800. In this recovery strategy, three groups of southern mountain caribou are recognized based on ecological and evolutionary distinctions between them: the Northern Group in west-central and north-central BC; the Central Group in east-central BC and west-central Alberta; and, the Southern Group in southeastern BC.
This recovery strategy sets overall population targets based on recent capacity of annual ranges to support caribou, with those targets being: 4,600 caribou for the Northern Group, 2,000 caribou for the Central Group, and 2,500 caribou for the Southern Group – a total of 9,100 caribou. This represents a more than 50% increase in numbers from the current total population estimate. The recovery goal for southern mountain caribou is to achieve self-sustaining populations in all LPUs within their current distribution. Achieving the recovery goal should result in sufficiently large local caribou populations to support traditional Aboriginal harvesting activities, consistent with existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Realizing this recovery goal for all LPUs will take a number of decades, especially for LPUs where levels of disturbance are high.