Kimberley volunteers give back to the reindeer this winter

This spring, pregnant female mountain caribou from the South Selkirk herd will give birth in a protected pen so that they, and their young calves, are safe from predators in the dangerous first six weeks after birth. With only eleven caribou left in the South Selkirks herd, keeping calves and their mothers safe is crucial for survival.

Recently, eager volunteers in Kimberley collected lichen for these special animals.

“It was really inspiring to see so many volunteers come out on a bluebird Saturday morning and spend a few hours picking lichen for the South Selkirk caribou. It’s clear that Kimberley cares deeply about the future of mountain caribou and their home in the inland temperate rainforest,” said Wildsight’s Conservation Coordinator Eddie Petryshen.

Lichen is necessary because in the winter, mountain caribou eat nothing but lichen that grows on trees. When the female caribou enter the maternal pen, they’ll need ten days of lichen to safely transition from their habitual diet to commercial feed—and that means more than 200 pounds of dried lichen.

Kimberley Alpine Resort graciously donated a lift up the quad chair for the 21 lichen pickers. The group snowshoed to a lichen-dense stand of alpine spruce and fir on top of the ski hill. Ski poles and homemade lichen picking tools were used by the group to reach lichen up to 10 feet high on tree branches.

“I wanted to share the importance of being a good environmental steward with my 10-year-old daughter Sarah. She wanted to take part because our actions are going to have a direct impact on these caribou and their future,“ said Kimberley local Patty Kolesnichenko.

The South Selkirk Maternal Pen Project

In an effort to boost caribou calf survival and stabilize the endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd, several groups, agencies, and levels of government are working together so that pregnant caribou cows will have their young in the safety of a six hectare maternal pen on the Darkwoods property near Ymir, BC. The cows, and possibly last year’s calves, will be relocated into the pen in the early spring before the calving period. Similar projects, for example the maternal pen near Revelstoke, are showing encouraging results, with an increase in calf survival and better overall health of mothers and calves.

Mountain Caribou Recovery

Wildsight is urging residents to raise their voices in support of further mountain caribou recovery measures. The recent announcement of a historic Section 11 agreement between BC and Canada presents an opportunity to lay out bold, meaningful actions to recover caribou, but the agreement currently fails to protect and restore critical habitat in order to recover mountain caribou.

The agreement’s public comment period is open until January 5th and details on where to comment can be found here.