Twelve pregnant female caribou have settled into new digs near Revelstoke, B.C.

The animals will have their calves in an enclosed maternity pen to give their babies a better chance of surviving in the wild.

The hope is if more calves can survive, the Columbia North Herd will maintain in strength or get stronger.

"We have [increased the herd size] by approximately eight animals," Kelsey Furk, a wildlife technician with the Rearing in the Wild Society told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

"The herd right now is stable and has been stable since 2013, which is an improvement over a number of other herds in the region that continue to decline."

The program is in its fourth year. Last year, four of 10 calves survived their first year compared to the usual 20 to 25 percent survival rate in the wild.

But the use of maternity pens is not without controversy.

A similar program in Alberta has been criticized for creating conditions where calves won't learn to survive in the wild and environmentalists in B.C. have said it's lack of habitat, not birthing conditions, that is the real problem.

Furk agrees "unsustainable predation," which the pens attempt to address is only one reason for the herd's decline and agrees habitat loss is also a factor.

Tranquilized caribou

Caribou are tranquilized before being moved into the maternity pen. In this photo, a veterinarian administers a tranquilizer reversal drug. (rcrw.ca)

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West