With more than half of the caribou herds in British Columbia (BC) listed by COSEWIC (the Council on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) as ‘Threatened’, effective conservation measures for this iconic species are urgently needed. Given that predation on calves is one of the leading proximate causes of caribou population declines, Wildlife Infometrics has partnered with two First Nations communities on a maternal penning project to protect cows and calves from predators during the calving season. With the protection afforded by the maternal pen, we aim to reverse the population decline of the threatened Klinse-Za herd while evaluating the biological and economic effectiveness of maternal penning as a conservation strategy. Now in its ninth year, this project has helped avert extirpation and contributed to the population almost tripling since 2013.
With a team of experienced specialists, we capture a proportion of the herd’s pregnant cows in late March and place them in a guarded pen where they are monitored and fed by a team of First Nations guardians. The cows and their calves are then released back into the wild in August when the calves are 2 months old. Throughout the year, Wildlife Infometrics field crews conduct surveys to monitor population status, information which we use for statistical analysis of the pen’s effectiveness. This project is located in the historical territory of the Klinse-Za herd, northwest of Chetwynd, and the traditional territory of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. The two First Nations communities were instrumental in initiating this protection for the Klinse-Za caribou and play a key role in helping project leaders at Wildlife Infometrics identify goals and directions for this initiative. To complement the short-term focus of the maternity pen, we are leading a long-term habitat restoration initiative across the herd’s area; read more here.
Funding and support for the penning project is provided by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the BC provincial government, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and numerous industry partners (including TransCanada, Teck Resources, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Spectra Energy, and others). Funding also comes from the Peace Region Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and Public Stakeholders who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by existing BC Hydro dams.