Mountain caribou are struggling to survive. This endangered species is on the decline, with loss of their habitat hurting overall population numbers.
Through Wildsight’s EcoStewards program, students are learning about this special mountain animal — and taking action to support the resurgence of this once abundant species.
Matt Gale’s Grade 7 class at Trail’s Glenmerry Elementary School participated in two in-class sessions with Wildsight educator Jess Williams, where they learned all about mountain caribou. They heard about challenges caribou are facing, played games and activities, and even got to examine a mountain caribou hide and antlers!
“They were shocked to learn about the local Mountain Caribou herds that have been expirtated in recent years,” says Jess. “They really benefited from the variety of learning on this project. From videos of the successful Nakusp maternity pen project of last year to the Indigenous perspective of other projects like this, the students received a full circle of learning and therefore naturally instilled a connection to these animals and their threatened habitat.”
After the in-class learning, the students traveled to Strawberry Pass where they picked lichen for the caribou alongside biologist and forester Erin McLeod from the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society (ALCS). The lichen was brought back to a maternity pen in Nakusp to help support captive caribou involved in a protected breeding program.
The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society is a non-profit based in Nakusp that focuses on providing a local voice in land-use decision making regarding caribou recovery efforts for the Central Selkirk caribou subpopulation. ALCS began developing the maternity pen project in 2019 as a way to improve calf survival and halt the rapid decline of the Central Selkirks caribou.
“It was great to work with Wildsight and the Glenmerry Elementary Grade 7’s to collect lichen because they had a real interest in learning about caribou, and the hands-on lichen collection showed the students that they can contribute to the recovery of local species at risk,” reflects Erin.
Wildsight’s EcoStewards program allows students to learn, experience and engage in local environmental issues, such as the declining mountain caribou herds in our region. This was an opportunity for the students to learn extensively about these majestic but threatened animals.
“I enjoy teaching this program as I witness the students grow in their learning about the caribou, and then see them get excited and feel good about doing a positive action for them,” says Jess. “Collecting the lichen was just one of the puzzle pieces to help the caribou. Being a steward of this animal and their habitat will stay with these students for a long time, hopefully instilling a lifetime of respect and understanding of how our actions can influence our sensitive ecosystem around us. The EcoStewards program gives these students that experience. It’s amazing to see and be a part of it!”
We would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust, Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies, Consecon Foundation, Copernicus Education Products, Fortis BC, LeRoi Community Foundation, the Province of British Columbia, TD Friends of the Environment, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and all of our individual donors for making this program possible.