New research indicates increasing habitat loss as the main driver behind caribou population decreases. Milo Burcham photo.

Curb habitat destruction now to protect caribou populations, says new study

Caribou lost twice as much habitat as they gained in 12 year period

A group of North America’s top caribou researchers have published a scientific paper indicating the importance of tackling habitat loss, which they’ve pinpointed as the main driver behind declines in caribou populations.

The paper, “Habitat loss accelerates for the endangered woodland caribou in western Canada,” showed that from 2000 to 2012, caribou subpopulations lost twice as much habitat as they gained, despite federal and provincial recovery plans and requirements under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

Their study also showed that habitat loss has only accelerated between 2000 and 2018. In areas containing young forests that had been logged in the past or disturbed in some way, population gains were seen.

This could be because the conditions of the young forests aren’t suitable for moose and white tailed deer. When these species leave the area, so do their predators and the landscape becomes a safe haven for caribou.

“Our findings support the idea that short-term recovery actions such as predator reductions and translocations will likely just delay caribou extinction in the absence of well-considered habitat management,” the authors wrote.

READ MORE: ‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

“Given the magnitude of ongoing habitat change, it is clear that unless the cumulative impacts of land-uses are effectively addressed through planning and management actions that consider anthropogenic and natural disturbances, we will fail to achieve self-sustaining woodland caribou populations across much of North America.”

Deforestation was the key driver behind the destruction of the Southern Mountain caribou’s habitat, while forest fires had a greater impact upon the habitats of the Boreal and Northern Mountain caribou.

Caribou are an indicator species, meaning the health and strength of their herds serves as a basis for the overall condition of their ecosystem. The deep snow caribou of southern and central British Columbia rely on the health of the Inland Temperate Rainforest.

“The decline of mountain caribou has mirrored the destruction of the Inland Temperate Rainforest ecosystem,” said Eddie Petryshen, a conservation specialist with Wildsight. “These deep snow caribou herds were once widespread in our Columbia Mountains; their decline is an indication that we are facing an ecosystem in crisis.”

READ MORE: Declines in the southern caribou population will continue to happen if the Ministry doesn’t put the Kootenays on the map as a priority: Wildsight

According to Wildsight, in the mountains north of Revelstoke where approximately 150 caribou still roam, only 40 per cent of the North Columbia herds’ habitat is protected.

“This research should be a wake-up call to the BC provincial government who continue to rely on short term band-aids while permitting the destruction of old growth and caribou habitat,” Petryshen said.

Wildsight is urging both the provincial and federal governments to take immediate action in order to protect the caribou and the Inland Temperate Rainforest.



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Details will be made available in the next few days. (File photo)
UPDATED: Community vaccine program to open in Golden

The clinic will be held from Saturday, May 8 until Sunday, May 16.

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Al Kowalko shows off the province's first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Okanagan schools shifting gears to electric buses

Vernon, Central Okanagan, Rocky Mountain and Okanagan-Skaha on board

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News file)
People aged 30+ in Summerland, Rutland offered vaccine amid high transmission risk

Interior Health offers residents of Rutland and Summerland aged 30 and up chance at vaccine

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

Lake Country firefighters assisted the RCMP on Kalamalka Lake Tuesday, May 4. (Fire Department file photo)
Okanagan RCMP interrupt houseboat break-in

Pair in their 30s arrested but no charges laid after alleged Kalamalka Lake incident

Most Read