British Columbia

New conservation officer hired in desperate attempt to save remaining mountain caribou

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has hired another officer to help patrol land closed to snowmobiles in hopes of protecting threatened mountain caribou.

It's been 6 years since an officer has been dedicated to patrolling the Revelstoke area

The conservation service hopes an increased presence in the Revelstoke area will deter snowmobilers from riding in restricted areas. (Getty Images)

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has hired another officer to help patrol land closed to snowmobiles in hopes of protecting threatened mountain caribou. 

It says the Revelstoke area hasn't had dedicated supervision in six years, leaving mountain caribou vulnerable to non-compliant snowmobilers. 

The new officer will be in addition to an existing component of officers that will regularly patrol the area, said Chris Doyle, deputy chief of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

"We'll be patrolling areas that can be quite complex," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "Generally, mountainous terrain [with] deep snowpacks."

Desperate measures

An operation began last week to try and relocate the remaining caribou in the southern Kootenays to a "maternity" pen in the bush north of Revelstoke

Biologists believed there were only six caribou left in the southern Kootenay region, three of which were successfully relocated. 

"There's some critical areas [near Revelsoke] that are set aside so that the caribou aren't pushed out by snowmobile activity or where trails can be created that may bring predators into those areas as well," said Doyle.

Doyle said officers will regularly patrol closed areas near Revelstoke by helicopter and on snowmobiles, as well as engage in outreach work and monitoring of trailheads. 

Compliance

In general, Doyle said compliance has been high in the Revelstoke area, with "great support" from the B.C. Snowmobile Federation and other local clubs.

"However, these operations are conducted in many parts of the province and we saw pockets of areas, in periods of time where compliance was not as good."

He said they have also done some outreach work in Alberta and Saskatchewan to try to educate snowmobilers who come to B.C. from outside the province.

Under the Wildlife Act, snowmobilers caught in restricted areas can face a $575 fine.

Court convictions for snowmobiling in southern mountain caribou habitats could result in a fine of up to $200,000 and six months in jail.

"Our presence both on the ground and in the air will provide a deterrence, so that we can prevent those offenses from occurring in the first place," said Doyle.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has hired another officer to help patrol land closed off to snowmobiles in hopes of protecting threatened mountain caribou. 5:37

With files from Daybreak South