Fears being raised by some environmental groups that Ontario's caribou are in danger of disappearing aren't backed up by current science, says a forest industry advocacy group.

"Caribou are the most abundant (hoofed animals) in North America," Ontario Forest Industries Association researcher Ian Dunn said in a news release earlier this week.

"Woodland caribou . . . is classified as threatened, however, they also remain abundant in Ontario and their habitat is well protected."

Greenpeace and other groups have been raising the alarm about Canadian caribou for several years, saying the country's population "has shrunk dramatically as logging has spread north and roads have fragmented once intact forests."

Greenpeace and like-mind groups point out that the animals need " huge areas of old growth forest- about 13,000 square kilometres for a herd of 500 - in order to survive."

For its part, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says it has spent $11 million over the last five years on caribou research.

"This investment has allowed (ministry) researchers to contribute to over 50 different research projects that are now completed or are ongoing in Ontario," an MNRF spokeswoman said Friday.

"Our understanding of caribou has greatly improved."

In Ontario, woodland caribou are considered "threatened" under the province's Endangered Species Act. A related species - forest tundra woodland caribou - are not.

The province is also attempting to get a better handle on caribou through the establishment of 14 caribou ranges from roughly Timmins to the Manitoba border.

Greenpeace has called on the province to suspend logging and road building in critical caribou habitat.

The forest association said "more woodland caribou are being born and surviving from year to year in areas like Nipigon and (Cochrane), which are managed by forestry companies."

That's "compared (to areas) which have little to no disturbance and are not managed by the forest sector," the association added.

"Caribou policy must be based on solid, defensible science that is used in balance with both social and economic considerations," said OFIA president Jamie Lim.

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