The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society hopes a new caribou maternity pen will soon get the go ahead from the provincial government. (File)

The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society hopes a new caribou maternity pen will soon get the go ahead from the provincial government. (File)

‘If we do nothing, the herd will certainly be extirpated’: Caribou maternity pen proposed in Nakusp

The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society is waiting for a response from the province

A non-profit organization has proposed a maternity pen near Nakusp, B.C. to help caribou recovery.

The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society was recently formed to provide a local voice in decisions regarding caribou recovery for the Central Selkirk herd, which is near Nakusp.

Since the Southern Selkirk herd, which spanned the Canada and U.S. border was extirpated earlier this year, the Central Selkirk herd is the only one that remains south of Highway 1.

“We don’t want the population declines to continue marching north,” said Hugh Watt, co-chair of the society.

Caribou distribution in B.C. (Ministry of Forests)

According to a report on the Central Selkirk herd from the provincial government, the herd’s population was 148 in 1994. By 2017, it was reduced to 29.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved north of Revelstoke

The report continues that the decline in caribou populations is ultimately attributed to direct and indirect effects of human activities and climate change.

“Compared to other ungulates, caribou are particularly vulnerable to increasing predation because they have low reproductive rates,” reads the report.

It continues that to avoid predation, caribou generally tend to stay in low productive habitats, which other ungulates avoid. The impacts of human activities and climate have changed caribou herd dynamics and have increased predation, in particular from wolves.

(Ministry of Forests)

The report notes that for the Central Selkirk herd, increasing predation is the main driver of the population’s decline.

According to the B.C. government, caribou in the province have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to less than 19,000 today.

Watt said that while building a maternity pen is “drastic” there is little choice.

“If we do nothing, the herd will certainly be extirpated.”

With a maternity pen, pregnant cows are captured in March, which is calving season. The cows are taken to an enclosed pen for giving birth, safe from predators. In July, the mom and calf are released.

Calves are particularly prone to predation, said Watt.

He continued that the proposed pen would draw on knowledge gained through the five year project north of Revelstoke. The Revelstoke Maternal Penning Project ran from 2014 to 2018. While the project has yet to release a final report, according to their website, they did improve calf survival rates.

READ MORE: Caribou maternity pen project nears its end by Revelstoke

The average penned calf survival rate for the past five years was 44 per cent, compared to an estimated wild survival rate that ranged from 20 to 36 per cent.

Watt said the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society hopes the new maternity pen will soon get the go-ahead from the provincial government. Black Press reached out to the Ministry of Forests and was told that the province is just starting discussions on the project and a decision is yet to be made.

If approved, Watt hopes some of the funding for the pen will come from the province.

Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz addresses the audience in a well-attended open house in Revelstoke last spring on the province’s draft caribou recovery plans. (File photo)

In January, the three remaining caribou of the South Selkirk herd that spanned the Canadian and U.S. border were near Revelstoke. According to Bart George, biologist for the Kalispel Tribe in the U.S., the three caribou are doing well.

READ MORE: U.S. protects already extinct caribou herd

In 2017, the Kalispel Tribe had raised $225,000 towards a maternity pen in the U.S. However, the herd was extirpated before it could ever be used.

Regardless, the 19-acre pen will be dissembled and moved to Nakusp, with the hope it will eventually be useful.

In 2009, the B.C. government set aside large chunks of land for caribou at just over 2 million hectares, 11 per cent of which was in the Revelstoke-Shuswap area. However, some critics have pointed out that the 2 million hectares includes pre-existing parks and more habitat is needed.

Regardless, Watt said with a significant amount of protected habitat, it would be nice to have some caribou on it.

“And not continue to watch as caribou dwindle and go.”


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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

 

Caribou distribution in B.C. (Ministry of Forests)

Caribou distribution in B.C. (Ministry of Forests)

(Ministry of Forests)

(Ministry of Forests)

Just Posted

Golden Rotary Club president Isabelle Simard presents a check in Invermere to the winner of Golden’s bingo. (Michele LaPointe photo)
Golden Bingo continues to grow; expands to other BC communities

The money is going back into the community through various Rotary projects

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES)
Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

Stats show every major community in Okanagan - Shuswap increased in calls for potential overdoses

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Vacciniation is underway in Golden as of Friday, Jan. 15. (Federico Gambarini/dpa via AP)
Vaccination underway in Golden

Long-term care residents and staff have been prioritized, April is the goal for public vaccination

The BC SPCA is adapting its fundraising after cancelling events due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
BC SPCA gets creative with fundraising as pandemic continues

The non-profit’s in-person fundraising events all had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

Penticton city council heard from Dhorea Ramanula, of Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences Tuesday, Jan. 19. Ramanula’s organization has operated public washrooms in Kelowna staffed by community support workers since April, she says Penticton could benefit from a similar facility. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Penticton interested in new public washroom concept to combat vandalism

Public washrooms with on-site support staff have been operating in Kelowna since April

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Canada Post had remove a lot of letter boxes around Penticton after they were vandalized. This letter box at the United Church on Main St. remains unscathed. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Street mailbox vandals strike Penticton drop boxes

Canada Post had to remove a bunch of the vandalized units

A rendering of UBC’s planned downtown Kelowna campus. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s new downtown campus to help alleviate UBCO’s space crunch

The sizable development is anticipated to be completed by the fall 2024 semester

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

A petition to spare the Mount Rose Swanson area from logging later this year has eclipsed 21,000 signatures as of Jan. 20, 2021. (Rose Swanson Mountain/Facebook)
Controversial logging will cut 4% of ‘sensitive’ Armstrong forest area: Ministry

A petition to spare the Rose Swanson area from logging has eclipsed 21,000 signatures

Vernon firefighters douse a fire inside a cardboard bin behind the Shops at Polson off Highway 6 Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Dumpster fire behind Vernon shopping mall

Vernon Fire Rescue Services respond doused recycling bin fire backing onto Polson Park

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Most Read