By Kevin Bollefer, Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild
On May 24th, exactly two months after 12 local mountain caribou were placed in their trial maternity pen, project personnel started to see the fruits of their labour. The first caribou calf was born by a happy and healthy mom. Weighing nine kg, it was the first of eight calves so far born in the pen constructed by the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild Society. “We still have one more to go which should occur at anytime now”, says Society President, Cory Legebokow.
Currently, there are five female calves and three male that are being protected within the pen to feed undisturbed from predators. The calves are gaining weight quickly and should be putting on up to half a kilogram a day. The mothers are being fed pellets to subsidize their natural diet of herbs at this time of year although they are able to eat lots of greenery within the 6.4 hectare enclosure. Upon release these calves should weigh between 25 and 40 kilograms. This will give the calves a fighting chance in the wild once released.
Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild (RCRW) is a community based partnership; consisting of a group of individuals and organizations committed to the recovery of caribou in the Revelstoke area. The goal and sole focus of RCRW is to fundraise, plan and conduct captive rearing of southern mountain caribou in the wild to increase caribou calf survival in the Columbia Mountains over a five-year period.
Mountain caribou that inhabit the Columbia Mountains surrounding Revelstoke are listed as Threatened under the Federal Species at Risk Act. Caribou subpopulations near Revelstoke are declining at a rate that will likely result in extirpation for some subpopulations in the near future. Actions are required now to halt and reverse this decline.
The society has been fundraising for two years now and has raised enough money to fund the project over its first year. The site was selected and a 12 foot high geofabric fence was constructed over a 6.4 hectare area (1100 meters perimeter) in the fall of 2013. The fence has an eight foot high, 14 strand high tensile electric fence on the outside to keep predators out of the enclosure while the geofabric fence works as a sound and sight barrier to keep the caribou in.
After finalizing all biological protocols in late March 2014, 10 female caribou and two yearlings were captured by helicopter and transported to the pen site where they were collared and released into the enclosure. Nine of the 10 caribou were confirmed pregnant. The animals adjusted to the pen quickly and immediately started eating the lichen that had been collected by local volunteers.
This project could not have occurred if it were not for all the community support. We have had over 200 person days donated by volunteers and innumerable inkind contributions. Combined we have over $200,000 of inkind contributions as well as the generous support by our funding agencies. Please visit the website for a list of contributors and to get more information on the project. Also, check our facebook page for updates and recent photos of our proud mom’s.
“In the wild, half of these calves would already be dead”, Dale Seip, provincial caribou biologist says as he checks to ensure all calves are okay and accounted for at the pen.