Enhancing Calf Survival in the Klinse-Za Caribou Herd
The Klinse-Za (Moberly) Caribou herd has declined rapidly over the past two decades. To aid in the reversal of this decline, this project will increase the likelihood of cow and calf survival by capturing 10 to 15 pregnant cows, keeping them in a protective pen during birthing, and continuing the protection until the calves are approximately six-weeks old. This is a collaborative project with West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations.
This project will be the third year of an ongoing maternal penning project. The project has reversed the earlier trend of rapid decline. In 2014, the project added four calves to the population and in 2015, five calves were added. The estimated overall population of adults and calves in 2014 went from 40-41 animals, to an estimated 46 animals in 2015 (unpublished Pate). For 2016, the target is to add 10 calves and bring the total number of caribou to 52 animals. (note: there are natural mortalities in the herds so there will not be a one-for-one result). By ensuring that more calves survive to maturity and breeding age through this maternal penning project, the goal is to save the herd from extirpation.
The primary short-term goal is to stop the rapid decline in the Klinse-Za and Scott East Caribou herds and reverse the trend towards extirpation. This maternal penning project provides protection from predators during the critical calving and early rearing stages, and enhances feeding. The penning and enhanced feeding, greatly increases the chances of survival of caribou cows and calves. Predator control efforts by the B.C. government, West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, have complemented the maternal penning project and the predator control will continue for 2015/16.
Final Report: Executive Summary
The Klinse-Za caribou herd in northern British Columbia is part of the endangered Southern Mountain population of caribou, and has declined in size from 198 animals in 1995 to a low of 16 animals in 2013. The herd suffers from unsustainable levels of predation (mostly by wolves) and was predicted to have become extirpated by 2015. Maternity penning was implemented in 2014 as a measure to avert extirpation of the herd. In combination with wolf removals conducted by First Nations (initiated 2013) and the BC Government (initiated 2015), the pen project has helped to arrest the steep decline in the Klinse-Za population, and the combined Klinse-Za and Scott East caribou herd size has increased from 38 individuals in 2013 to 61 in 2017 (lambda = 1.126). An unexpected outcome of the maternity pen project was the mixing of the Klinse-Za and Scott East herds which, prior to penning, were fairly distinct. Although it is difficult to directly compare the relative benefits of maternity penning and wolf removals, the maternity pen does appear to effectively contribute to population increase. This conclusion was drawn by contrasting adult survival and the number of calves/100cows in the wild with that of the pen after the natal period in early July, and again before the calf recruitment period in mid-March.
The Klinse-Za maternity pen project aligns with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program’s Species of Interest Action Plan in that it addresses the outlined Species-based Actions. Specifically, the Action addressed is 1b-3 ‘Implement projects identified through approved recovery strategies, action plans, and management plans developed for woodland caribou’. We address that action in that the project will enhance Woodland Caribou population of the KlinseZa herd as per the “Implementation Plan for the Ongoing Management of South Peace Northern Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou pop. 15) in British Columbia”, specifically – 3.5.3 “Species and Population Management to increase the population of South Peace Northern Caribou across the current range, it is essential that species and population management occur in certain herd areas. Species and population management activities will include improving knowledge of South Peace Northern Caribou population estimates and trends, improving knowledge of adult and calf survival, increasing adult and calf survival, and augmenting herds (e.g., maternal penning, transplants)”.
Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.