Background

Caribou in the Revelstoke area are adapted to the deep snows of the Columbia Mountains and are known as Mountain Caribou, a subset of the broader Southern Mountain Caribou population. They migrate up and down mountains in search of seasonally available food, which, in winter, consists exclusively of tree lichen. They are dependent on old forests for forage and to spatially separate themselves from other ungulates.

Southern Mountain Caribou are listed as a threatened species under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. Populations declined dramatically around 2002 and continue to decline. Today, several herds in the Columbia Mountains region are extremely small and without intervention may be extirpated in the near future.

Photo by Mark Bradley

The Columbia South herd (next to Revelstoke) was approximately 120 in 1994 and approximately seven in 2011. The Columbia North herd (just north of Revelstoke) was approximately 210 in 1994 and approximately 120 in 2011.

Caribou local to Revelstoke have been extensively studied since the mid 1990s. Today we know a lot about caribou, including information on mortality, population trends, and habitat use. Current threats to caribou include: habitat loss, small population effects, altered predator prey dynamics and direct and indirect disturbance.

Pregnancy rates for mountain caribou are consistently high, however the number of calves has declined and calf numbers are too low to sustain the population. Therefore, increasing calf survival rates is considered a key tool in the conservation and recovery of mountain caribou. Caribou rearing in the wild, also known as maternity penning is a method that has been used in the Yukon and Alberta to increase calf survival.  

What is the goal of a caribou rearing in the wild project?

Our goal is to improve survival of calves and females. Caribou rearing in the wild consists of capturing healthy pregnant females in late spring and transporting them a short distance to a secure enclosure within caribou range. The highest standards of animal welfare and care are employed; females are fed a healthy diet, receive veterinary care, and are monitored 24 hours a day. The cows and calves are released approximately one month after calving, once calves are larger and more capable of escaping predators. Calf survival is monitored to determine if captive rearing is successful in improving calf survival. This monitoring may lead to a better understanding of the factors limiting calf survival.

Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild is committed to mountain caribou conservation and recovery and recognizes that maternity penning is one of many actions required to achieve this goal. The RCRW feels that maternity penning is an achievable action in this region for caribou conservation and recovery but recognizes and is supportive of the work being done, by other organizations, governments, First Nations and stakeholders to protect and recover mountain caribou and habitat.

More information on caribou and caribou recovery

Encyclopedia of Earth – Mountain Caribou in British Columbia
http://www.eoearth.org/article/Mountain_caribou_in_British_Columbia,_Canada

Mountain Caribou in Mt Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks and Parks Canada Conservation Strategy for Southern Mountain Caribou
http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/glacier/natcul/natcul6/caribou.aspx

BC Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan
http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/speciesconservation/mc/index.html

Species at Risk and Public Registry
http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=638

Want to help save caribou?

If you are an organization that would like to donate materials or professional services, please contact us.