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caribou calf in Alaska

Improving Mountain Caribou Calf Survival

a caribou calf

Caribou maternity penning, also known as captive rearing, is a method that has been used in the Yukon and Alberta to increase calf survival. Mountain caribou that inhabit the Revelstoke region are listed as threatened by the federal government, and endangered by the provincial government.

Populations in the Revelstoke region are declining at a rate that will likely result in extripation in the near future. Action is required now to halt the reverse of this decline. Provincial and federal levels of government, industry, tourism/recreation users, environmental organizations, academia and First Nations are working together to support maternity penning of local caribou populations to increase calf survival and boost caribou population numbers.

Our top three short term goals are:

How Our Project Helps the Environment

This project is unique in that maternity penning is the one caribou recovery measure that varying user groups can all agree upon. Intangible benefits to the community include working together to solve their own local problems. Tangible benefits include the use of funds to purchase local materials for pen construction, the hiring of "shepherds" from local First Nation communities, and an extraordinary amount of in-kind donations from supporting stakeholders.

Mountain caribou pregnancy rates for the region are consistently high, however, the number of calves surviving to 10 months of age has declines, and calf numbers are too low to sustain the population. If successful, over five years, this project will be able to stabilize, if not reverse, the trends we currently see with calf mortality. This is a major gain for caribou in a region that has seen significant declines in populations over the past 20 years.

It is worth mentioning that the strictest wildlife health protocols will be employed when handling pregnant females. We are fortunate enough to have a pen site that is less than 2 km from the natural calving area, so stress related to transportation of pregnant females will be kept to a minimum. The females, and later their calves, will receive a healthy diet, veterinary care, and will be monitored 24 hours a day. Upon release (calves at 6 months of age), calves will continue to be monitored to evaluate their, and our, success.