Update: Caribou habitat – 12,000 trees planted and access restricted
Access trails and roads to high-elevation habitat can be bad for caribou. It’s not the vehicles that are the biggest problem, but rather the hardpacked winter snow and clear trails that allow predators to easily prey on caribou, specifically calves.
For these reasons, the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society has been leading a project west of Chetwynd to deactivate a 2.3-km section of forest service road on Mount Bickford. The most recent work included planting 12,000 seedling trees — hybrid Spruce, Sub-alpine Fir, and Alder — on the restored site.
Woodland Caribou are a species at risk and are identified in the FWCP’s Peace Region Species of Interest Action Plan. In particular, the Klinse-Za/Scott East Woodland Caribou herd has gone through steep population declines in the last few decades, with only 36 animals counted in 2013. Since then, emergency recovery actions, including maternity penning and predator control, have helped the local caribou population climb back to approximately 81 in 2019.
The recent road deactivation work will further increase the herd’s chances of survival but it was, however, far from straightforward. Upon initial completion in 2017, a bulldozer was illegally used to partially open the access road, but the Society was quick to respond and re-do the road deactivation.
Wildlife Infometrics Inc. is responsible for project management, and has been monitoring the project’s effectiveness. Trail cam footage has shown that, following the deactivation work, vehicle access was completely eliminated during snow-free periods. Only one group of snowmobiles ignored the signage and went through the restoration area during the winter 2017-2018.
Monitoring will continue along the restoration area to determine predator presence and abundance.
The Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society is a not-for-profit Organization established by the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations to recover declining caribou populations within the territory of Treaty No. 8.
Bickford habitat restoration pilot
Due to population declines of the Klinse-Za Caribou herd, recovery actions such as predator control and maternal penning have occurred since 2014. To ensure long-term sustainability of these populations, habitat restoration and access management are needed to reduce the impacts of disturbance features. This project proposes to continue to test the feasibility of using mechanical and ecological restoration methods to block human access, and restore ecosystem function along the upper portion of the Fisher Creek FSR, adjacent to Bickford Mountain. Outcomes expected include measures of success in reducing human access to caribou habitat and accelerated vegetation response. Results will also guide landscape-level habitat restoration planning for the Klinse-Za and Scott East herds.
Final report: executive summary
The Klinse-Za/Scott East woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) herd, located in northern British Columbia (BC), numbered only 36 animals in 2013 after undergoing a steep population decline during the previous two decades. Since 2013, West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations (in partnership with Wildlife Infometrics Inc.), and the BC Government have undertaken two priority recovery actions (maternal penning and wolf removal) based on recommendations from BC Government management plans and from an independent recovery action plan developed by West Moberly First Nations. Maternal penning and wolf removal are emergency measures required to prevent extirpation of the herd, which, after 5-years, have stopped and reversed the historic population trend. However, these emergency measures are not solutions to the long-term goal of achieving a self-sustaining caribou population. A combination of habitat restoration, habitat protection, and access management measures comprise the third leg of the overall recovery strategy. These actions are a key component of achieving a self-sustaining population and are expected to reduce the requirement of continuing with costly and invasive emergency recovery efforts.
Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.