Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Dolphin and Union Caribou as Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act
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FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the Dolphin and Union caribou, a distinct population segment of the barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) and endemic to Victoria Island and the Canadian mainland, warrants federal protection as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

The original rule proposed a threatened listing, but new information identified a significant decline in the herd’s population. No critical habitat is designated because the Dolphin and Union caribou reside in Canada.

“This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible,” said Martha Williams, Fish and Wildlife Service director. “Climate change is having a profound impact on species around the world and addressing it is a priority challenge for the Administration.”

During the public comment period for the proposed rule, the Service received new survey information revealing caribou experienced a catastrophic decline from 2015 to 2018 when the herd lost 75% of its 2015 population (from 18,000 individuals down to 4,000 individuals). This decline was substantiated again in a 2020 survey (3,800 individuals). Since 1997, data shows the Dolphin and Union caribou herd declined from approximately 34,000 individuals to approximately 3,800 individuals.

A combination of climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
-related factors is the primary threat to the DPS. Dolphin and Union caribou live in harsh northern environments and rely on sea ice for migration. Climate change, specifically melting sea ice, severely impacts their ability to reach their breeding, feeding, and wintering grounds. As sea ice declines in the Dolphin and Union caribou’s habitat, new trade lanes are opening for shipping traffic. Long-term sea ice loss compounded by the breaking up of sea ice could result in increases in mass drowning events for this caribou.

Listing the Dolphin and Union caribou as endangered means an ESA section 4(d) exemption for personal sport-hunted trophies included in the proposed rule won’t be implemented. When this final rule is effective on Jan. 12, 2023, all personal and commercial imports and exports, except for those accompanied by permits issued for research and education purposes, are prohibited.

The Service makes ESA listing determinations using the best available scientific and commercial information. The ESA requires the Service to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of which country the species lives in. Although the ESA's prohibitions regarding listed species apply only to people within the jurisdiction of the United States, the ESA can generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries.

The final rule to list the Dolphin and Union caribou as endangered under the ESA will publish in the Federal Register on Dec. 13, 2022, and is effective 30 days after publication. More information on the final rule is available at by searching under docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2019-0014.

For more information about the Dolphin and Union caribou, please visit

To learn more about the Endangered Species Branch of Delisting and Foreign Species program, please visit


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Story Tags

Climate change
Climate effects
Endangered and/or Threatened species
International conservation