21 Kimberley locals came together recently to collect lichen for the maternal penning project for the engangered South Selkirks heard of mountain caribou (also known as reindeer).
Lichen is a simple slow-growing plant that typically forms a low crustlike, leaflike, or branching growth on rocks walls and trees.
“It was really inspiring to see so many volunteers come out on a bluebird Saturday morning and spend a few hours picking lichen for the South Selkirk caribou. It’s clear that Kimberley cares deeply about the future of mountain caribou and their home in the inland temperate rainforest,” said Wildsight’s Conservation Coordinator, Eddie Petryshen.
This spring, Petryshen says, pregnant female caribou from the South Selkirk herd will give birth in a protected pen so that they, and their young calves, are safe from predators in the dangerous first six weeks after birth.
There are only eleven caribou left in the South Selkirks herd, down from 48 only a decade ago.
Keeping calves and their mothers safe is crucial for survival, says Petryshen.
“Lichen is necessary because in the winter, mountain caribou eat nothing but lichen that grows on trees. When the female caribou enter the maternal pen, they’ll need ten days of lichen to safely transition from their habitual diet to commercial feed—and that means more than 200 pounds of dried lichen are needed,” Petryshen said.
Petryshen adds that Kimberley Kimberley Alpine Resort graciously donated a lift up the quadchair for the 21 lichen
“The group snowshoed to a lichen-dense stand of alpine spruce and fir on top of the ski hill. Ski poles and homemade lichen picking tools were used to reach lichen up to 10 feet high on tree branches,” he said.
“I wanted to share the importance of being a good environmental steward with my 10 year old daughter Sarah. She wanted to take part in this activity because our actions are going to have a direct impact on these caribou and their future,“ said Kimberley local, Patty Kolesnichenko.
The South Selkirk Maternal Pen Project
In an effort to boast caribou calf survival and stabilize the endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd several groups, agencies, and levels of government are working together so that pregnant caribou cows will have their young in the safety of a 6 hectare maternal pen on the Darkwoods property near Ymir, says Petryshen.
“The cows and possibly last year’s calves will be relocated into the pen in the early spring, before the calving period,” he said. “Similar projects, for example near Revelstoke, are showing encouraging results, with an increase in calf survival and better overall health of mothers and calves.”
Mountain Caribou Recovery
Petryshen says that Wildsight is urging British Columbians to raise their voices for better mountain caribou recovery measures. The recent announcement of a historic Section 11 draft agreement between BC and Canada is an opportunity for meaningful action to recover mountain caribou, but has been seen as weak and innefective by environmental organizations across the province, as it does not require sufficient protection and restoration of caribou habitat.
The agreement’s public comment period is open until January 5th. Details can be found at mountaincaribou.ca/section11.