Do you have some questions about what the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society is, or the maternity pen and its operations?
Who is the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society?
The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society (ALCS) was formed following two well-attended public forums, discussing caribou recovery efforts around Nakusp. ALCS is a non-profit organization headquartered in Nakusp, designed to provide a local voice in land use decision-making regarding caribou recovery efforts of the Nakusp Central Selkirk caribou herd. One goal of the society is to apply maternal penning as a recovery tool for the Central Selkirk herd in partnership with the BC Caribou Recovery Program (CRP) to increase calf survival and population growth. The project is founded on the best available science and animal care protocols.
What is the status of the Central Selkirk (CS) herd?
The CS herd has reduced from 92 to 28 animals (26 adults & 2 calves) from 2010 to 2021 and has seen a total decline of 84% since 1997. With only 2 calves observed in 2020, the recruitment rate of 7.1% is far below the 16% necessary to stabilize the population. Without intervention, it’s destined to be extirpated.
What recovery measures have been applied to the CS herd?
Recovery actions to date include habitat protections through development reserves, recreation management, and predator management.
What are the factors that indicate that maternal penning is suited for the CS herd?
Without immediate management interventions, the CS herd is expected to be functionally extirpated (<8 adult females) in less than 5 years.
Researchers found combined recovery treatments that focused on increasing adult female survival through wolf reduction and calf recruitment through maternal penning resulted in the highest population growth rates compared to populations with single treatments. Combined recovery treatments including predator management and maternal penning applied on the Klinse-Za herd in Northern BC resulted in a significant population growth rate increase from 0.86 to 1.14 (Serrouya et al. 2019) resulting in the population almost tripling since 2013.
Adult survival is currently being addressed through predator reduction programs that began in 2019 targeting wolves and cougars. It’s critical for project success that predator reduction continue while the maternal pen is in operation. FLNRORD is committed to the continuation of the predator reduction program.
Penned adults will also be protected from predators during a time of year when mortality is high and should benefit from supplemental nutrition.
It is generally accepted that populations of <100 animals are best suited for penning because to make a population-level effect at least 50% of all adult females are required to be penned (e.g. for a population of 100 animals comprised of 50% females, a minimum of 25 females would need to be penned). Penning more than 25 females becomes problematic given the size of the facility required.
Where is the ALCS maternal pen located?
The maternal pen is located within critical caribou habitat in the Kuskanax Creek drainage near the Nakusp Hot Springs, approximately 10 km northeast of the Village of Nakusp. The site is located within a mature forest at approximately 875 m in elevation. The pen is substantially complete and will be fully ready well in advance of the March 2022 capture.
How was the site chosen?
The site was initially identified by ALCS using a coarse set of criteria and local knowledge and subsequently screened by an expert team. It was visited and approved by FLNRORD’s provincial wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Helen Schwantje in October 2019, and by Dr. Caeley Thacker in December 2021. The facility meets all expectations and requirements with regard to animal care and rearing.
What size is the pen and is it big enough for the expected number of adult females to be captured?
The pen is 6.6 hectares in size and has a perimeter of 1.2 km. Based on a rearing density of 0.5 ha/adult, the facility is large enough for the planned capture of up to 12 adult females. As the herd grows in subsequent years the facility can be expanded to rear more animals if deemed necessary.
How many years will the pen be required?
The project is intended to run as a 5-year trial with results assessed annually and measured against project objectives. A decision on whether to proceed with subsequent years will be based on those results. The objectives of the project include preventing extirpation of the CS herd by increasing calf survival by a factor of 2 -3, improving adult female survival, increasing calf recruitment to >20%, and ultimately seeing a positive growth rate in the herd.