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.

 

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

(Ministry of Forests)

Just Posted

Rob Morrison sworn in as Kootenay-Columbia MP

Parliament set to reconvene on Thursday with election of House Speaker, Throne Speech

Saving trees: Lodge near Glacier National Park honoured for its efforts

Sorcerer Lodge is the first whitebark pine friendly ski area in Canada

LETTER: Reflections on democracy and community from former Green party candidate

Abra Brynne ran in the 2019 federal election to be Kootenay-Columbia’s MP

Basin economic snapshot shows Kootenay a mixed bag

State of the Basin report shows economic recovery from recession a slow go

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Arena set to re-open in mid-January

The Town of Golden and Columbia Shuswap Regional District have developed a… Continue reading

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

WorkSafeBC investigating serious incident at Kootenay Boundary landfill

Medical incident shut down the McKelvey Creek landfill Friday morning

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

Bird populations significantly declining around Revelstoke says Parks Canada

Out of the mountain national parks, bird populations near Revelstoke are in the worst shape

Most Read