British Columbia

Caribou conservation group wants snowmobilers out

A caribou conservation group says the government needs to deal with snowmobilers who are disturbing caribou in their habitat.

Valhalla Wilderness Society wants government to increase enforcement of snowmobilers

Blair Lekstrom was appointed by the premier as a "community liaison" after opposition to the caribou recovery plan boiled over in the Peace in 2019. (Getty Images)

The Valhalla Wilderness Society is asking the B.C. government to clamp down on snowmobile riders going into protected caribou habitat.

The society's director, Craig Pettit, says snowmobilers cause extreme stress to caribou, as well as range abandonment. He says snowmobilers cause the animals to go to areas that are steeper and have poorer food conditions, and where they are also at greater risk of predation.

And while millions of hectares of caribou habitat are off-limits to snowmobilers, Petit says conservation authorities are reporting numerous violations of both mandatory and voluntary exclusion zones.

"They're seeing snowmobile tracks on the ground riding very close to caribou, they're finding that the fines for these violations are too small, and in many cases, the riders just pull out their wallets and hand them the money and want to continue riding," Pettit told Daybreak North host Carolina De Ryk.

Pettit says that several snowmobile clubs have received money from the province in the past to educate riders about caribou, but claims those efforts aren't working.

"We need to increase enforcement drastically. The government has to take a serious look at what's going on," he said.

In an emailed response, the B.C. Snowmobile Federation says that riders are not to blame.

"It is always interesting to see how a special interest group can read and draw conclusions to meet a predetermined outcome that satisfies a need of their members. In the case of Valhalla Wilderness Society, it is to turn B.C. into one large park," their statement read.

They say that the Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan is not being implemented to the fullest and that logging and road building are problems not being dealt with.

Pettit disagrees, saying that while road building may have been a problem in the past, the snowmobilers are grooming existing roads with snow packers and disturbing caribou habitat.

"Recreation doesn't have to be in caribou habitat," he said. "There's enough area in B.C. that these riders can ride."

To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Snowmobilers and caribou don't mix, says conservation group


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