Wildsight is a leading member of the Mountain Caribou Project (MCP), a coalition of environmental organizations who have worked over the past decade to assure that mountain caribou remain a part of the inland temperate rainforest that includes both the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains. To this end, we proposed a science team approach to government that was ultimately formed and included the leading caribou biologists in BC. The BC Mountain Caribou Recovery Science Team (BCMCRST) concluded that habitat loss and degradation was the ultimate cause of caribou decline and recommended significant increase of protected habitat for mountain caribou. This area includes over 2 million hectares, over 350,000 of which were in the land base slated for logging. This area is now off limits to logging.
The Mountain Caribou Project (MCP) participated in the mountain caribou recovery process from its beginning and advocated for habitat protection and population recovery measures indicated by science. MCP has stated clearly and consistently to government that predator control is an unacceptable alternative to science mandated habitat protection from commercial resource developments (e.g., forestry, mining, and recreation) and protection of caribou from displacement from habitat by recreation.
However, the Science Team included provisions for predation management in the recommendations that formed the basis for the Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan (MCRIP). The Science Team recently confirmed the need for predator control of wolves in a number of selected populations where caribou numbers are very low (less than 50 animals) and where wolf predation is expected to increase the probability of extirpation of these herds before the benefits of other recovery actions (i.e. habitat protection) are realized. Wildsight and its partner groups successfully pushed back on any broad scale predator management. We have supported wolf control only if targeted at specific animals that can be shown to be killing caribou in these most endangered herds.
MCP recognizes that loss of a few key individuals (such as reproductive females) can lead to the rapid extirpation of these herds. We also recognize that even once government implements appropriate habitat and caribou protections there may remain an immediate predation threat to some herds and that it will take time for habitat recovery to alleviate this threat. Losing entire herds or populations of caribou not only increases the probability of extinction but also may threaten current habitat protections put in place to encourage caribou recovery.
I had the opportunity of working on the habitat inventory of the Purcell Mountain caribou, and in the several years of tracking these animals and recording mortalities did not find any direct evidence of wolf predation on this herd. Wolf and caribou movements will be monitored through collars with GPS locators which are downloaded daily. Wolves would only be taken out of the population (killed) if it can be demonstrated that an individual or group has predated on the recovery herd of caribou. There is no evidence of wolf predation on caribou in the Purcells to date.