As a species on COSEWIC’s (the Council on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) threatened list, woodland caribou belonging to the Southern Mountain population are subject to ongoing conservation efforts and a recovery strategy. Alongside government, First Nations, and industry partners, the Wildlife Infometrics team has been involved in these efforts for over a decade. We participate in the identification of core caribou habitat and the design of conservation measures to ensure that caribou herds have enough intact seasonal range to coexist with recreational and industrial activities on the landscape. We employ a multi-staged approach to delineating conservation areas, which involves the following steps:
- Since caribou are highly mobile animals that depend on a variety of habitats at high and low elevations throughout the year, we undertake year-round caribou observations and site surveys to identify the characteristics of high-use areas across all habitats.
- We use Geographic Information Systems to spatially model the supply of these habitats over time under various scenarios of landscape change and development.
- We apply this information to carefully design conservation areas and associated management guidelines that seek to maintain a functional supply of habitat to caribou.
Our work has thus far been conducted across the Mackenzie and Fort St. James Natural Resource Districts in north-central British Columbia (~9.6 million hectares) with a special focus on the Chase, Finlay, Scott, Takla, and Wolverine caribou herds.
In the spirit of adaptive management, newly established conservation areas are being monitored and evaluated to assess their effectiveness, primarily via the deployment of motion-activated cameras to detect caribou use of the protected habitat, analysis of GPS collar data, and ongoing assessment of forest development and its effects on habitat supply. This allows us to refine and improve the approach to delineating these areas as we strive to improve their effectiveness, while minimizing their impact on recreation and industry.
These ongoing projects are being conducted with the support and cooperation of British Columbia’s provincial government and the local forest industry (Canfor, Conifex).