Rob Serrouya

Will caribou maternity penning work?

We asked the lead scientist to explain why the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild mat penning project is a good option for recovery

Part two of an ongoing column and story series exploring the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild maternity penning plan.

I was asked to provide a scientific background on the maternity pens. As I thought about the problem, it became clear that like any management challenge, it comes down to a mix of science and values – what people want. The maternity pen should only be pursued if people want it. So here’s some background to help inform people.

Any time we discuss mountain caribou, it always comes down to the three related recovery options:

1) reducing food for moose and deer (in other words, protecting old forest habitat for caribou);

2) reducing alternate prey (moose and deer);

3) reducing predators.

Focussing only on option one won’t solve the problem because shrubs will be around for decades. Shrubs grow after trees are logged, which then grow moose and deer, which in turn grow wolves and cougars. Option two – reducing alternate prey – also on its own, is sketchy because predators might switch to caribou.

Finally, Reducing predators (option three) without addressing options one and two means that predator control would have to go on indefinitely, which many people consider unethical and is not really accepted in B.C.

The ‘mat’ pen is basically related to option three because it would reduce predation on calves.

Will mat penning work? Consider that calves in Alaska and Northern B.C. die most often during the first month of life, usually from predation.

Penning worked well in the Yukon, but not so well for the Little Smokey herd in Alberta.

In the Yukon, wild calves had a 15 per cent survival, whereas calves that were in the pen for about a month had 74 per cent survival (four months post-release). All 96 pregnant cows birthed healthy calves, suggesting that female body condition and stress were not problems. Obviously we’re trying to focus on the things that worked well in the Yukon and not repeat the mistakes from Alberta. And here’s a bit more on the science part – see the graph of what we could expect from penning. Penning would help reduce the decline if half the females are penned, just before and after calving – then they are let go.

What I conclude from this little math exercise is that penning alone won’t solve the problem. It’ll help, but a mix of all the options will be needed, at least in the short term.

From a personal perspective, there are two things I like about this project. First, from the 10 years of land-use planning I’ve worked on, I haven’t seen people with different values get along so well. We’ve brought people together who don’t normally hang out. The reason people came together is because penning is a way of reducing predation on calves without having to kill predators, or to reduce more moose, or even to protect more habitat. If it works, it’s a win-win.

The second aspect is the chance to work with students to take them crashing in the bush to learn about wildlife, collect lichens for the pen, and do some computer work to show how math can be used to help solve real-world problems (the graph is an example to help make decisions). Let me know if you’re interested.

Rob Serrouya is a wildlife biologist contracting for the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, and for the Alberta Biomonitoring Institute. He’s also finishing his PhD at the University of Alberta.

The Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild project (@RCRWSociety on Twitter) is competing for $100,000 through a social media contest sponsored by Shell Canada. Please visit www.fuellingchange.com for competition details and how you can help make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Fire prevention in Revelstoke: ‘Look. Listen. Learn.’ What does it mean?

Home fires today can burn faster than ever. Occupants may have as… Continue reading

Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence nominees announced

The nominees for the annual Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards… Continue reading

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Revelstoke City Council makes moves to protect the look of the downtown core

Revelstoke City Council has issued a development permit for a three story… Continue reading

Revelstoke women’s hockey hosts third annual tournament

The Revelstoke Kodiaks women’s hockey team hosted a tournament last weekend. Dawson… Continue reading

Sunny skies for the week ahead

Environment Canada is forecasting clear skies for the Okanagan and Shuswap

Workers at BC Interior mill strike as negotiations resume in Kelowna

Picket lines went up at 4 a.m Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Tolko Lakeview Division in Williams Lake

Toronto Police ID B.C. man as naked shark tank jumper

David Weaver, of Nelson, is wanted on mischief and assault charges

In Florida, families seeking the missing amid storm damage

Five days after the hurricane slammed into the Florida Panhandle, people are struggling to locate friends and loved ones.

Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on a 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

EU’s Barnier hopes Brexit deal possible in ‘coming weeks’

Britain is set to leave the European Union in March, but a Brexit agreement must be sealed in coming weeks to leave enough time for relevant parliaments to ratify it.

Earth samples show dust from B.C. pipeline blast not a health threat: Enbridge

Enbridge says earth sampling shows mineral and metal composition is well below provincial and federal standards for urban and residential areas.

Postal services ready for looming wave of legal cannabis deliveries

Legal cannabis is set to usher in a wave of high-value, age-restricted parcels in the mail system, and delivery companies say they’re ready.

Mega Millions prize of $654M is nation’s 4th-largest

No one has won the U.S. jackpot in almost three months

Most Read