WATCH — Indigenous-led conservation brings caribou back in northeastern B.C.

Quinn Murphy
Story by Quinn Murphy and CBC Kids News • 2022-06-29 06:00

Vulnerable species in Canada

The population of a caribou herd in northeastern British Columbia is improving, thanks to conservation efforts of two local Indigenous communities.

That’s according to a recent study from the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

Caribou are culturally significant for First Nations groups like the Saulteau and West Moberly, who live in northeastern B.C.

Caribou are large, hoofed mammals, also known as reindeer in some parts of the world. They can be found in North America, northern Europe and Asia.  (Image credit: Line Giguère/Wildlife Infometrics)

Why is the caribou population decreasing?

It’s estimated that in British Columbia, caribou populations have declined by 11 per cent per year over the past several decades, according to the study. 

Industrial development is interfering with their migration routes and natural habitats, forcing them to move away, which leaves them vulnerable to predators like wolves and grizzly bears.

Caribou make up one of the largest land migrations of any mammal as they travel to new areas in the summer to look for food. (Image credit: Nikanese Wah tzee Stewardship Society)

However, the Klinse-Za mountain caribou herd in northeastern British Columbia are an exception.

Their numbers have increased, thanks to a joint conservation initiative led by the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations.

These Indigenous groups worked in partnership with the University of British Columbia and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative and have seen significant results.

The herd’s numbers have rebounded from around 38 individuals in 2013 to more than 100 caribou today.

Caring for the Klinse-Za caribou

The members of Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations have specific ways of caring for their local caribou populations.

One Indigenous conservation method called “maternal penning” involves capturing caribou that are pregnant. 

Volunteers from the Saulteau First Nation watch over, feed and protect the mothers, or cows, from predators. They also look after their newborn baby calves.

A Klinse-Za caribou baby calf and cow spend time together in their maternity pen in northeastern B.C. (Image credit: Line Giguère/Wildlife Infometrics)

Other conservation practices include habitat restoration and predator management.

By reforesting areas that had been cut down, and working to minimize interactions between caribou and their predators, the Klinse-Za herd is given a chance to grow.

Want to learn more about these charming caribou? Click on the video to see these majestic mammals in their natural habitat!

Have more questions? Want to tell us how we're doing? Use the “send us feedback” link below. ⬇️⬇️⬇️

With files from Courtney Dickson/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Line Giguère/Wildlife Infometrics with graphic design by Philip Street/CBC)

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About the Contributor

Quinn Murphy
Quinn Murphy
CBC Kids News Contributor
Quinn Murphy lives in Vancouver, B.C., with her parents, sisters and dog, Massi. She loves to spend her days photographing and writing about animals. One day she hopes to make a difference in wildlife conservation.

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