Census reveals South Selkirk Mountain Caribou herd on brink of extinction

 Photo: Jim Lawrence / Kootenay Reflections Photography

Photo: Jim Lawrence / Kootenay Reflections Photography

Conservationists are devastated by news that a recent census of the endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd found that only three females remain. This is down from 11 animals last year. 

While this news is tragic, it isn't a surprise. For decades the logging industry has knowingly decimated critical caribou habitat. Their activities removed an important food source (lichen) and made access (via forest service roads) much easier, especially for predators. In 2014, the BC Liberals announced a wolf cull program, which they claimed would help protect caribou. We knew then and we know now that the cull was simply a way of scapegoating predators while industry continued, business as usual. In fact, it was the forestry industry that suggested the wolf cull in the first place, in hopes that it would avoid a federal caribou recovery plan that would set aside more habitat for protection. To date, approximately 30 wolves have been slaughtered in the South Selkirks alone.

Despite warnings from independent scientists, First Nations and concerned citizens, the provincial government continues to prioritize profit over the protection of endangered species. In recent years, snowmobiling further disturbed mountain caribou in the South Selkirks. During the winter of 2016, snowmobile tracks were observed within a kilometre of the endangered herd. Noise pollution interrupts important winter feeding and sled tracks create easy access for predators. 

We're on track to lose the remaining southern mountain caribou herds, whose total population numbers dropped from 4,500 last year to 3,800 this year. Join us in calling on both the provincial and federal government to take immediate action to stop the logging of old-growth forests, to restore and reconnect habitat and to take concrete, effective steps in preventing disturbance from recreational activity, including snowmobiling and heli-skiing in critical caribou habitat. 

EMAIL DECISION-MAKERS:

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Hon. Doug Donaldson - doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Hon. George Heyman - george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Catherine McKenna - Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca

A Death Sentence for Selkirk Wolves

 Photo credit: Jim Lawrence/Kootenay Reflections

Photo credit: Jim Lawrence/Kootenay Reflections

For wolves in parts of British Columbia, winter marks a dark time. Since 2015, the provincial government and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development have been culling wolves in a misguided attempt to protect endangered mountain caribou. Over 400 wolves have been slaughtered, shot from helicopters after being mercilessly chased down through the snow.

The wolf cull has failed miserably in the South Selkirk. When it began in 2015, there were 18 mountain caribou left in the herd. Today, it’s believed only 10 mountain caribou remain, despite that most of the wolves in the territory have been killed. There is almost no suitable habitat left in the South Selkirk region for the endangered herd. Decades of logging destroyed critical habitat and biologists suggest it will take between 50-100 years before the area can again sustain a mountain caribou herd. Logging continues today in adjacent critical habitat which government biologists warn makes it near impossible for caribou to recover.

Recent footage obtained by our field crew in the South Selkirk contains a short clip of one of the many wolves being sent to slaughter this winter. We have tracked these animals for over a year and it is heartbreaking to think that soon they will be targeted by government contractors.