Revelstoke city council unanimously agreed to be the agency that will coordinate funding for a proposed mountain caribou maternity pen project near Revelstoke.
As reported in the May 23 Times Review, a coalition of local stakeholders called the Revelstoke Caribou Rearing in the Wild group is planning to build a 10-acre protected maternity pen near Lake Revelstoke. Pregnant female caribou will be put into the pen and stay there for about three months while they give birth and raise young in the pen, which will be protected from predators by a shepherd.
RCRW group representative Rob Serrouya presented the plan to city council on May 22. Serrouya is the coordinator of the Columbia Mountains Caribou Research Project, a locally-based science research group. He has been doing caribou research in the region since the ‘90s.
Serrouya said many steps have been taken to help protect mountain caribou to date.
“An enormous amount has been done,” Serrouya said, listing measures like recreation restrictions, forest harvesting restrictions, old-growth protection, moose reductions and more. “Most of what’s left of old growth forest is protected for caribou,” he added.
He said since 2003, the moose population has been reduced by 70 per cent by increased sport hunting quotas. “Both moose and wolves are way down,” he said.
Serrouya said the changes haven’t reversed the decline in caribou populations: “It’s stabilized the decline, but it hasn’t been enough to create recovery.”
Local herds have declined from about 400 in number 15 years ago to about 130 now.
He said maternal penning was a logical next step.
Serrouya said the cooperation on the maternal penning project stands in contrast to other often highly-controversial mountain caribou recovery initiatives.
“I’ve been land-use planning for a long time, with people yelling at each other … often very contentious meetings,” Serrouya said. “The RCRW, we have members from motorized recreation, environmental groups, scientists – basically a broad gamut in the community is there. It’s basically a love-in, for lack of a better word.”
He said the city was selected to be the funding applicant for the project because they are seen as a neutral party, and could qualify for not-for-profit funding. The city is not providing funding; they’re going to help RCRW apply for and manage funds for the project.
In response to questions from council, Serrouya said the pen was not expected to be detrimental to the caribou placed inside. He said predation is the cause of mountain caribou decline.
“They’re dying healthy,” he said. “They’re not picking out the weak and the infirm. It’s healthy animals that are being taken.”
In an update, Serrouya said the group has no funding now but hopes to build the pen in the fall. However, he said it now appeared too late to start penning caribou for the spring of 2013.