A dozen female caribou were captured and for year three of a maternity pen project north of Revelstoke.
“This is an ambitious, community-based initiative aimed at increasing survival rates of newborn mountain caribou,” said Kelsey Furk, the executive director of Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild (RCRW), in a news release. “We are proud to be in our third season and grateful for all the many dedicated volunteers and supporters we have had over the past three years. Together we can make a difference for the future of mountain caribou.”
Of the 12 female caribou captured, 10 are pregnant, reported RCRW on Friday after completing this year’s capture.
The animals will be kept in the pen, where they will give birth and rear their calves. In late-July, they will be released into the wild and monitored using satellite-linked collars to track their survival until next March, when the calves are about 10 months old.
Last year, 18 adult female caribou were captured and 15 calves were born in the pen. One adult and four calves died in the pen. The adult and her calf died due to poor physical condition, and the three other calves died from abandonment, injury and infection, respectively.
Of the 11 calves that were released last July, eight were still alive as of March 2016. RCRW says that normally only 20-25 per cent of calves born in the wild live to 10 months of age.
The deaths in the pen prompted a review of operations.
Furk told the Review that the smaller capture this year was to address the mortality issues in the pen. They also expanded the size of the pen to nine hectares from six hectares.
“We extended the pen and we’re implementing a number of other measures to improve outcomes within the pen,” she said.
She could not say why calf survival was better this winter than last. Last winter they speculated the poor snowpack resulted in more deaths. This winter, the snowpack returned to normal levels.
“Anything more would be speculation, she said.
Two calves were killed by cougars, while the other death is unknown.
The goal of the maternity pen is to increase calf survival in order to contribute to the recovery of mountain caribou in the Revelstoke area. The Columbia North herd had 150 caribou in 2013, down from about 210 in 1994.
RCRW is funded and supported by numerous local business, non-profits and government organizations.