Caribou maternal penning project enters fourth season

Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society working to reverse decline of threatened species

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File photo: BC Provincial Wildlife Veterinarian, Helen Schwantje, and Wildlife Veterinarian Bryan Macbeth assess health of two caribou, while RCRW, Parks Canada and Yucwmenlucwu staff record data and apply a satellite linked radio collar for tracking. Photo: Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild.

By Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild

The Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society is pleased to announce that their maternal penning project is now underway for its fourth consecutive year.

Watch the Revelstoke Mountaineer webcast interview with Kelsey Furk of the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild here:

In early April, 12 female adult caribou were safely captured and placed in a specially built pen by a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts. The maternal pen is within the animals’ natural habitat in the North Columbia Mountains, north of Revelstoke, B.C. The caribou will be fed, monitored and kept safe from predators while their calves are born. Most caribou calf mortality happens in the first couple months. The goal of the maternal-penning program is to improve the chances of survival of calves born in the pen compared to those born in the wild. In late July, when the calves have grown and are stronger, the adults and young will be released back into the wild. After caribou cows and calves are released, they are monitored using satellite-linked collars to track their survival until March, when calves are 10 months old and considered “recruited” into the local population.

Caribou are captured using a net fired from a helicopter. They are hobbled, blindfolded, sedated, and transported inside a helicopter to outside the pen. Photo: Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild.

The Columbia North herd has been stable since 2013, which is an improvement over several other local caribou herds which continue to decline. Increasing calf survival will contribute to the recovery of mountain caribou.

Quick facts

-A summary of results can be found at rcrw.ca/2017-media/
-Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild (RCRW) is a community-based partnership, consisting of a cross representation of individuals and organizations committed to the recovery of mountain caribou in the Revelstoke area. RCRW’s goal and sole focus is to fundraise, plan and conduct a maternity penning project, to increase caribou calf survival in the North Columbia Mountains over a five-year pilot period.

Parks Canada staff apply a satellite linked radio collar to track survival after release from the pen. Photo: Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild.

-The project began in 2014.
-The Columbia North herd (north of Revelstoke) had approximately 210 caribou in 1994 and approximately 150 in 2013 and 2017.
-Pregnancy rates for mountain caribou are consistently high, however calf survival rates are low. Increasing calf survival rates is considered key in the conservation and recovery of mountain caribou.
-The Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society (RCRW) is a community-based partnership that includes:

o   Revelstoke Community Forestry Corporation
o   North Columbia Environmental Society
o   Splatsin First Nation
o   Mica Heliskiing
o   Revelstoke Snowmobile Club
o   Province of BC
o   Parks Canada
o   Columbia Mountains Caribou Research Project

Major RCRW funders in 2016-17 include the Government of Canada, Columbia Basin Trust, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Parks Canada, Province of BC. A complete list of project funders is located at rcrw.ca/contributors

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