TREATY 8 TERRITORY/CNW/ – The First Nations communities of West Moberly and Saulteau near Chetwynd have partnered with industry and the B.C. government to create a maternity pen project to slow the decline of the Klinse-Za caribou herd. A first in northern BC, the goal of the program is to protect vulnerable pregnant caribou and their newborn calves from predators.
Ten females, all screened to confirm pregnancy, were gathered in late March and enclosed in a protective, screened, four-hectare area within their natural calving range. The now secured caribou will be fed and watched over around the clock by members of the West Moberly and Saulteau communities, and the project team, including wildlife biologists, who have set up a temporary camp near the pen site.
This protective area will allow calves to be born, whelped and develop the ability to flee from predators, before they are released back onto the range in July.
Caribou are blue-listed (threatened) in B.C. Caribou numbers in the Klinse-Za herd have dropped to under 20 animals, mostly due to calf mortality due to increased predator presence.
“Caribou were once in such abundance in B.C.’s north that our elders referred to them as seeming like “bugs on the landscape” but with the industrialization of the land and an increase in predators, this valuable animal has been declining at an alarming rate,” said Chief Roland Wilson of West Moberly First Nation. “We thought it was important as a community to show leadership not only through our self-imposed moratorium on caribou hunting and commitment to species at risk plan, but to take immediate action through this project to ensure we don’t lose this animal in our region forever.”
The initiative is relying on technical guidance and operational efforts from partners around the region, particularly West Fraser Mills Ltd. and Wildlife Infometrics Inc. Financial assistance is being provided by Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations of the Province of B.C., as well as support from community groups and local industry. Longer-term program goals include the rehabilitation and reestablishment of critical caribou habitat.