In British Columbia, mountain caribou are endangered due to decades of industrial activity that has decimated critical habitat. These caribou rely heavily on arboreal lichen as a food source that grow only in very old forests, most of which have been clear-cut.
Today, mountain caribou face additional threats that contribute to their decline.
· Snowmobiling/Heli-skiing: Reports suggest stress hormones have been found in caribou up to ten kilometres away from snowmobiling. Reports also suggest caribou will intentionally avoid habitat with heavy snowmobile use, even though the habitat itself is suitable for caribou to thrive in. Predators also take advantage of snowmobile tracks to access caribou habitat where otherwise, the snow would be too deep to travel in. Like seismic lines, snowmobile tracks create predator highways. Heli-skiing disturbs caribou through noise pollution during important feeding times and is similar to snowmobiling in that caribou avoid habitat used by heli-skiing operations.
Since 2014, the provincial government and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (formally the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) have been culling wolves in the Selkirks in a misguided attempt to conserve mountain caribou. Nearly 30 wolves have been slaughtered, including mothers and pups, yet the herd is now functionally extinct. Provincial governments and government agencies, including the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Urban Development, have been well-aware of the drastic decline in mountain caribou for years. The inaction in protecting the species was a direct result of lobbying efforts by industry, including logging.
Wildlife Defence League seeks to bring an end to the wolf cull and protect mountain caribou, using advocacy, research, education and outreach. We strongly endorse the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal by Valhalla Wilderness Society and encourage our supporters to learn more about this important initiative.
We are asking the government to:
· Prohibit trapping of wolves within and adjacent to endangered mountain caribou habitat. This will ensure packs are not splintered, which can have the effect of increasing wolf density.
· Enact immediate closure of all snowmobiling and help-skiing within endangered mountain caribou habitat. Snowmobiling has been identified as a contributor to the decline in endangered mountain caribou due to noise pollution and habitat disturbance. Snowmobile tracks create predator highways that animals like wolves and cougars use to access caribou during winter months in high-elevation habitat where otherwise, access would be near impossible. Heli-skiing disturbs caribou through noise pollution and interrupts important feeding times.
· Fund a comprehensive impact study on all recreational activity within endangered mountain caribou habitat and its effect on the species, province wide.
· Fund a comprehensive research study on the overall health of the South Selkirk ecosystem to better direct future conservation initiatives. Caribou are known as the canary in the coal mine, meaning they are an indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem.
· Immediately stop the wolf cull. There is little evidence to indicate culling wolves will recover endangered caribou across British Columbia. Alberta has killed more than 1000 wolves for over ten years and the endangered herds have not recovered there. In the South Selkirk, approximately 30 wolves were killed yet the caribou herd in the area is now extirpated. Furthermore, wolves are highly intelligent, social and sentient beings who live in dynamic family groups. Shooting these animals from helicopters is an outdated practice and is traumatizing to individuals who manage to escape. The cull fails to acknowledge the critical role this keystone predator plays in maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
· Prohibit new logging/mining/oil/gas permits within caribou habitat.
· Fund Indigenous-led maternal penning programs across the province to help re-establish endangered caribou populations.