Give back to the reindeer this Christmas: Help gather lichen

Saturday, December 16, 2017
Kimberley & Cranbrook Branch
Northstar Mountain - Kimberley Ski Hill

Join us on Saturday, December 16th in Kimberley to collect lichen for the maternal penning project for the endangered South Selkirks herd of mountain caribou (also known as reindeer). This spring, the pregnant female caribou from the 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 the new calves and their mothers safe is crucial for survival.

In the winter, mountain caribou in the wild 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 are needed. Needless to say, that’s a lot of lichen to be picked and volunteers from both Canada and the US are joining in the effort to help our southernmost mountain caribou herd.

Kimberley Alpine Resort has graciously donated a lift up the quad chair for the lichen pickers. Meet us just outside of guest services at the base of the Kimberley Ski Hill at 11AM. From the top of the quad chair, we will snowshoe to a lichen-dense stand of alpine spruce and fir, returning to the base of the hill around 2pm. Volunteers should dress appropriately for the weather and bring snowshoes, ski poles to help reach the lichen up in the trees, water and snacks, and be ready to spend a few hours in winter conditions. If you don’t have snowshoes or poles, we will have some available. Please email Eddie Petryshen to RSVP and to let us know if you need any equipment.

Lichen picking instruction will be provided or you can read up on all the details in advance. And you can be sure that no caribou visit the Kimberley Ski Hill, so our lichen harvest won’t harm any other caribou.

The South Selkirk Maternal Pen Project

In an effort to boast 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 6 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 near Revelstoke, are showing encouraging results, with an increase in calf survival and better overall health of mothers and calves.