Update|Woodland Caribou

In November, the BCWF encouraged members to take the EngageBC Survey on Predator Reduction to support caribou recovery. B.C. citizens were provided the opportunity to comment on predator reduction as a recovery action. The BC Caribou Recovery Program also invited 45 Indigenous Nations and trappers/guide outfitters to consult. The results are in.

The BC Caribou Recovery Program scientists report on survey results:

  • 98% of respondents feel that caribou recovery is important
  • 37% of respondents were in support of predator reduction measures
  • 59% of respondents were opposed to predator reduction measures
  • The majority of opposed respondents resided in southern and southwestern B.C.

Please encourage people to participate in future surveys and consultations on this and other recovery management plans.

A document summarizing the Engage BC results will be posted at BC Caribou Recovery Program in early 2022.

2021 Caribou Population Estimates (compiled by BC Caribou Recovery Program)

The BC government is compiling an inventory of BC caribou. The inventory is a vital part of the recovery plan because it means scientists can track populations and monitor herd status, health and trends over time. In the past year, the province conducted 23 surveys of caribou herds to determine population attributes such as herd size, recruitment, composition, and so on.

Scientists were able to calculate subpopulation sizes for 15 herds, which have been updated in the 2021 BC Caribou Herds Population Estimates, compiled by the BC Caribou Recover Program (the government program). This table provides details on both current and historic long-term trends. Current trends refer to the past 2-5 years, while historic trends refer to the past 2-3 generations (18-27 years). 

The current status changed in 3 herds:

  • Barkerville from stable to decreasing
  • Columbia North from stable to increasing
  • Pink Mountain from unknown to stable

Population management actions to support recovery have been noted. The BC Caribou Recovery Program team will provide an update on their website in early 2022.

The BC Caribou Recovery Program is in the process of drafting procedures for actions to support caribou recovery in BC. Engagement summaries and decisions packages have been sent out to the decision makers from the regions in the province where predator removal is being considered to inform final recommendations. Herd planning is ongoing at a slow pace with the initial focus on the caribou herds deemed to be in most peril. Herd plans (most of which are incomplete or outdated) can be found here

Related Context

In the fall, on behalf of the B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF), Region 7B President and Wildlife Committee Chair, Gerry Paille, wrote to the Government of B.C. thanking them for the opportunity to comment on the proposed five-year extension of the predator reduction program in support of woodland caribou recovery in B.C.

The BCWF applauds current and past provincial governments for supporting multiple years of predator removal in support of caribou recovery for well-established reasons.

Evidence of the positive impact of predator reduction programs on caribou recovery is convincing, as noted in the background material supporting the public engagement process. The popular media tend to focus on the positive effects of maternal penning, habitat protection and restoration, supplemental feeding, restricting recreational access, and reducing or eliminating hunting opportunities. However, without predator reductions, many of these treatments may be insufficient to sustain, let alone increase, caribou populations.

Predator reduction is often referred to as a “stop-gap” or “short-term” measure in caribou recovery. Unfortunately, while resource extraction­­­, mostly through logging and oil and gas exploration and extraction, continues within caribou habitat, predator reduction necessarily becomes a long-term measure. Habitat restoration and recovery are long-term processes and occur too slowly to make a much-needed immediate positive impact on threatened or endangered caribou herds.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation understands that there are socio-economic impacts of habitat protection, restoration and recovery, and encourages the provincial government to conduct associated studies incorporating the best available ecological and economic science and find a solution that benefits declining caribou herds while being sensitive to the needs of B.C.’s economy. In the mean time, predator reduction needs to continue for those caribou herds in most jeopardy. Climate change only adds to the urgency for continuing with predator removal while waiting for the benefits of long-term actions.

For all BCWF members, a more detailed article on the recent letter to the government and recommendations for caribou recovery strategy will in the January/February 2022 BCWF members’ insert of the BC Outdoors Magazine.

Please consider giving the gift of membership to support the BCWF in striving to ensure the sound long-term management of B.C.’s fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreational resources in the best interests of all British Columbians.

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