Endangered caribou get better start in Revelstoke
By Emily Kemp
Woodland caribou have a pretty solid strategy to avoid being the next meal of a hungry wolf — live in places where they don’t.
They have the advantage in winter being fitted with long legs and hooves, which enable them to travel through deep snow easily. But unfortunately their need for large uninhabited spaces is slowly and surely being eroded.
Caribou numbers in Revelstoke have been dwindling with the effects of human expansion and the subsequent change in predator habits. The Columbia South herd, next to Revelstoke, was about 120 in 1994 and in 2011 that had fallen to just seven.
Similarly, the Columbia North herd, north of Revelstoke, had about 210 in 1994 and in 2011 was down to about 120. This is cause for concern as the survival of caribou indicate whether our forests are functioning as healthy eco systems.
A local, ambitious initiative, now in its second year, aims to increase survival rates of newborn mountain caribou. The Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society (RCRW) want to increase the Columbia North’s herd to a self-sustaining level of 250.
They’re on track as last month they released 17 adults, 11 calves and one juvenile caribou back into the wild, after a period of supervised enclosure in a 6.4 hectare maternity pen.
These caribou were the result of a capture operation in late winter this year where 18 female caribou and one calf were successfully captured.
During captivity there were five mortalities — an adult cow and four calves. An adult cow and her calf died due to poor physical condition and three other calves died as a result of abandonment, injury (consistent with trampling) and infection.
The successfully released caribou have now moved into their natural high-elevation summer range and will be monitored for the next seven months using satellite-linked collars.
RCRW is a community-based partnership that includes the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation, Splatsin First Nation, the North Columbia Environmental Society, the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club, Mica Heli Guides, the Province of BC and the Columbia Mountains Caribou Research Project.
Photo Credit: Isabelle Groc