The results of the spring caribou count are in—there are only four caribou left in the South Purcells herd. This comes less than two weeks after the tragic news that there are just three animals left in the South Selkirks herd. This is a devastating loss for BC’s two southernmost remaining caribou herds and a sad day for British Columbians
“This is a dire situation that speaks to our failure as a province to maintain healthy ecosystems to sustain our wildlife,” says John Bergenske, Conservation Director for Wildsight.
The South Purcells herd is down to four caribou—three males and one female—from the 16 animals reported last year. Southern mountain caribou, a unique ecotype who live only in the inland temperate rainforest of BC’s southern interior mountains, feed exclusively on tree-growing lichen in the winter and need old growth forests to survive.
Mountain caribou herds in BC have been declining for decades as the impacts of logging, industrial activity and motorized recreation spread over BC’s mountains, leaving isolated herds with nowhere left to run. BC’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, after more than a decade, has failed to stop the loss of caribou, let alone recover populations. Now, the province has announced a new Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan, which contains general principles, but as of yet, no concrete steps to help caribou today.
“We need immediate action,” says Bergenske. “If we keep stalling, there just won’t be any caribou left to recover in the southern herds. If the province won’t protect all critical habitat now, then the federal government has to step in.”
There are fewer than 1200 southern mountain caribou left in herds from southeastern BC to the Hart Ranges of the Northern Rockies.
“Now is the time for government to act decisively to protect our mountain forest ecosystems,” says Bergenske. “It’s not only caribou that are under threat. BC is one of the wildest places on earth, but it will take all of us working together to hold on to that wild. Caribou recovery will take decades—but if we act now, it is possible.”