Efforts to rescue mountain caribou in the Purcell and southern Selkirk Mountains over the past two decades have resulted in translocation of animals to the Revelstoke maternal pen.
Provincial biologists recently moved the only known remaining female from the South Selkirk herd and one female and one male from the South Purcell herd to the maternal pen near Revelstoke. This is the latest chapter in the heartbreaking story of a species on the brink. There are no known caribou remaining in the South Selkirks and only three males in the Purcells.
As one of North America’s oldest mammals, southern mountain caribou survived ice ages 12,000 years ago. Once abundant throughout the Columbia, today they exist in 18 isolated subpopulations, hanging on in remote areas of our heavily-altered mountain landscapes. This week’s translocation came as no surprise—the situation is dire. The decline of mountain caribou has mirrored the destruction of the inland temperate rainforest ecosystem. As industrial disturbance increases, caribou populations decrease.
“These are extreme measures taking place. They speak to British Columbia’s failure to adequately protect and recover caribou and their habitat. While habitat loss due to logging, mining and intensive recreation continued to expand, we have watched the ongoing decline of caribou across the landscape for over 30 years. We have failed these herds and we have to do everything in our power to ensure that other caribou herds don’t follow the same trajectory,“ says Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight’s Conservation Coordinator. “The government must take drastic action now to protect remaining mountain caribou habitat in the province and implement a breeding program to provide for reintroductions as habitat recovers. Unfortunately, it is not only caribou that are suffering from ongoing habitat destruction. Wildlife across the province have been on a steep decline over the past decade.”
At least three male caribou still remain in the South Purcells near Kimberley. The translocated animals were greeted in the maternal pen by an orphaned caribou who was visibly heartened to see some of her own kind arrive. These animals will be released back into the wild after a period of acclimatization to their new home.
Local Grant Smith breaks down how we failed our mountain caribou in this PDF.