Only four caribou left from transplant

Many of the endangered mountain caribou transported to the East Kootenay were killed by predators

Early days of the experiment: Sedated mountain caribou are settled in the snow by wildlife biologists in March

Early days of the experiment: Sedated mountain caribou are settled in the snow by wildlife biologists in March

Just four of 19 caribou transplanted into the Purcell Mountains west of Cranbrook are still alive, less than one year after the transplant.

Since the animals were brought to the area from northern B.C. last March to boost a dwindling herd, most have been killed by cougars or wolves, according to Steve Gordon, project manager of the Purcells South Mountain Caribou Herd Augmentation.

“This is an unfortunate result. We are quite disappointed,” said Gordon. “Obviously this isn’t the success we had hoped for, but we are learning a lot from this that will inform how we proceed on other transplants and management of other herds in southern B.C.”

The endangered animals were brought from Dease Lake in northern B.C. in March in an attempt by the provincial government to revive a dwindling herd in the backcountry between the East and West Kootenay.

There are less than 1,700 mountain caribou in existence. The Purcells South herd had around 14 animals before the transplant.

To boost the local herd, 20 mountain caribou (17 females, three males) were taken from a healthy herd on the Tahltan First Nation, fitted with GPS radio collars then brought down to the Kootenays in specially designed animal trailers. One female caribou died en route.

Unfortunately, the transplanted animals could not be dropped in the same draw as the resident herd because of poor weather conditions. Perhaps as a result, the transplanted caribou began to explore the area, with some heading out of their alpine habitat above 1,400 metres or 4,500 feet to the valley bottom around Cranbrook and Creston.

“When they are wandering, they are at high risk. One of the things we are looking at to improve the chances of success of future transplants is: how can we reduce that wandering?” said Steve Gordon.

Some made it as far as the United States. Four of the 15 caribou that have died were in the U.S.: three in Montana and one in Washington.

“These are remarkable animals. They have made some extensive movements,” said Gordon.

The other caribou have remained in B.C., though some have swum across Kootenay Lake, while others wandered into the Rocky Mountains.

According to Gordon, five caribou have been killed by cougars and three by wolves.

“One important thing to note is that with only one exception, which is the most recent mortality, all of the predation mortalities have occurred when the caribou have wandered into low elevation areas,” he said.

Three of the transplanted caribou died in accidents: one fell through ice into a stream and couldn’t get out; one fell off a cliff; and one broke its leg and was subsequently preyed upon by a cougar.

Four died of unknown causes, and their bodies have been sent to the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine to determine cause of death.

March’s caribou transfer was to be the first in a two-part relocation project, a last ditch attempt to save the endangered herd in the Kootenays. The efforts are mandated under the federal Species At Risk Act. Gordon said the cost of capture, transport, release and incidental costs of the March relocation was $134,000. That amount doesn’t include the GPS collars, which can be reused, and research.

The transplant isn’t the only effort the team has undergone to save the endangered Purcells South herd, Gordon added.

“Transplants are always risky. It’s certainly not the desired way to manage caribou,” he said. “It’s only one of the management tools and a lot of the other management tools have been used in this area, including very significant habitat protection and management of human activities in that area. There has been a lot of cooperation from the forest industry and snowmobile clubs and associations that we want to acknowledge. This is a critical intervention. It’s not something we embark on without serious reflection.”

Gordon said it has not yet been determined whether another transplant will take place.

“It’s safe to say we certainly wouldn’t be proceeding exactly as we did on this one. We would be applying what we have learnt through this transplant.

“As unfortunate as these results are, we are learning a lot from it. It is hopefully going to benefit mountain caribou in the long run.”

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read