As part of the province’s continued effort to conserve the 51 caribou herds that call British Columbia home, the province has announced a substantial investment into a comprehensive caribou recovery program.
What are considered to be a true northern species, caribou are generally categorized into three distinct sub-species:
- Peary (found only on arctic islands)
- Barren-ground (found on the tundra)
- Woodland (found in forests)
British Columbia’s population is made up entirely of Woodland caribou and have been identified in Canada as a Species At Risk because of their declining populations. Resource extraction is believed to be the main factor affecting the success of these animals, as natural resource pipelines, roads, and seismic lines create corridors that facilitate predator movement into caribou habitat.
“We’re taking action to protect the long-term survival of the woodland caribou,” British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said at the 14th Annual Premier’s B.C. Natural Resources Forum. “We’ve already invested millions of dollars and set aside critical habitat, but stronger action is required to reverse population declines, and ensure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to experience these animals in the wild.”
The program is founded upon continuing to build on existing efforts and will contain five key components:
- Critical caribou habitat protection and restoration
- Maternal penning
- Predator management
- Research and monitoring
- Increased compliance and enforcement
“Caribou recovery is complicated by numerous factors including habitat alteration, climate change, increased predation and competition from moose, deer and elk,” said Minister of Forests and Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson. “By investing $8 million this year, and another $19 million over the next two years, B.C. is making a clear statement that it is serious about caribou recovery.”
The 51 woodland caribou herds currently in British Columbia are comprised of approximately 19,000 animals, compared to the estimated 30,000 and 40,000 caribou living in the province at the turn of the last century.
“These iconic creatures were once one of Canada’s most widespread species, found in over 80% of the country,” said Environment Minister Mary Polak. “Today, many of the province’s herds are at -risk of disappearing altogether. We are taking the necessary steps to protect caribou habitat and working to ensure that economic development activities can continue without compromising caribou recovery efforts.”