Caribou calf in maternity pen at the Revelstoke predator protection project

BC caribou protection effort extended

With wolf kill in its third year, Premier Christy Clark announces $27 million to expand protection, maternity pen program

The B.C. government is budgeting $27 million to continue its caribou recovery program for another three years, including more pens to protect young calves and a continuing wolf kill program.

Premier Christy Clark announced the funding at her government’s annual natural resources forum in Prince George, acknowledging that some of the province’s woodland caribou herds are declining and in danger of disappearing.

Maternity pens to protect pregnant females and calves from predators are operating near Revelstoke and West Moberly in the Peace region, and a third project will be established in the South Peace to protect calves in the Quintette herd.

There are 51 woodland caribou herds in B.C. in four groups, southern mountain, central mountain, northern mountain and boreal. Herds have struggled to survive as habitat has been opened up by resource roads and snowmobile trails, with wolves seeking new prey.

This is the third winter where provincial biologists and aboriginal hunters have tracked and shot wolves from helicopters to protect dwindling herds.

“Caribou recovery is complicated by numerous factors including habitat alteration, climate change, increased predation and competition from moose, deer and elk,” said Forests Minister Steve Thomson.

Kootenay West NDP MLA Katrine Conroy said years of recovery efforts have not stopped the decline of caribou, and habitat protection and enforcement of snowmobile restriction zones have not been enough.

Conroy says local residents report logging in areas that are supposed to be protected, and snowmobiles creating trails in restricted areas that allow wolves easier access to high country.

“What they’ve been doing is too little, too late,” Conroy said.

Revelstoke resident Virginia Thompson, who worked on the mountain caribou project in the Revelstoke-Shuswap region, said logging approved in 2011 reduced old-growth habitat that mountain caribou depend on.