The B.C. government is moving 20 northern mountain caribou from northern B.C. to help bolster a dwindling herd in the Kootenays.

The Purcell herd, near Kimberley in southern B.C., is down to just 15 animals.

Project manager Steve Gordon says transplanting caribou from the Dease Lake area is the only way to bring back the herd.  

"Our goal is have 100 animals in that habitat 15 years after our first release," he said. "If we want to have mountain caribou in that habitat we have to take some action."

Gordon says the hope is the transplanted animals will merge with the endangered Purcell herd.

"They would join with resident animals and learn their patterns."

The program is expensive and controversial — not everyone agrees with moving animals to southern B.C.

If the transplant is successful the government plans to move another 20 caribou next winter.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating