Biologists make surprise discovery of southern mountain caribou calf

Biologists made a surprising discovery last week when they found a female caribou calf wandering with two bulls in the Purcell Mountains near Kimberley, B.C.

All the caribou in the Kootenays were thought to have been accounted for

Biologists weren't expecting to find a caribou calf wandering in the Purcell Mountains with a bull. (Aaron Reid)

Biologists made a surprising discovery last week when they found a female caribou calf wandering in the Purcell Mountains near Kimberley, B.C.

They thought all of the southern mountain caribou were accounted for when they began an operation in January to  gather the remaining caribou in the Kootenays and relocate them to a pen north of Revelstoke, in a desperate attempt to keep the species alive. 

All of the caribou were thought to have been captured, except for two stubborn bulls, one of which was found wandering with the calf. 

"Originally, observers thought [the calf] was a yearling male, but we weren't that confident in the diagnosis," said Leo DeGroot, a wildlife biologist with the B.C. government. "So, our staff flew again ... and  discovered it was actually a female calf."

DeGroot told reporter Bob Keating that the discovery of a female calf is especially important because she can help with reproduction. 

"[Southern mountain caribou's] days are limited," he said. "[The calf] will be valuable to another larger population."

Relocation

He says they hope to capture the calf as early as this week using a helicopter and a net, to try and relocate her to the "maternity" pen near Revelstoke with the other caribou that were previously moved.

Eventually, biologists hope to introduce the calf to the Columbia herd, which is about 150 strong. 

They will try to capture the bull the calf was seen with, but the second bull they probably will leave to live out his life in the Purcells, said Degroot. 

"Males aren't biologically important to move. In the population, they'll be moved to ... there's probably 50 or 60 males."

Biologists made a surprising discovery last week when they found a female caribou calf wandering with two bulls in the Purcell Mountains near Kimberley, B.C. 5:05

with files from Bob Keating and Daybreak South

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