Tue, 11 Aug 2020
Tags: Caribou

Habitat restoration across the Klinse-Za caribou herd range

HCTF’s Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund (CHRF) provides funding for restoration of critical habitat for BC’s caribou herds. This includes multiple projects designed to benefit the Klinse-za herd led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society, a joint initiative of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. The Society is working in partnership with a team from Wildlife Infometrics to restore disturbed habitat. Wildlife Infometrics recently shared the following update focused on the monitoring component of this work.

Why restore?

The Klinse-Za herd area, located between Mackenzie, Chetwynd and the Peace Arm of Williston reservoir, used to support a herd of almost 200 caribou as recently as 1995 and was said to be so numerous in historic times as be “like bugs on the land”. However, the herd has declined to under 40 individuals by 2013. Across BC, many caribou herds have experienced the same steep declines, and most of the struggling herds are inhabiting areas with generally more human disturbance and activity on the landscape. Specifically, industrial development has contributed to caribou declines as their habitat has been altered, displacing the caribou and making them more susceptible to predation. Since 2013, costly and intensive management efforts including maternity penning and predator removal have helped halt or reduce the rate of decline in some herds. However, these activities are not going to keep caribou on the land base over the long term. To improve caribou habitat, support the ecosystem and balance the predator-prey dynamics, we are implementing a large-scale habitat restoration project in the Klinse-za caribou herd area.

A road from low to high elevation provides an easy travel corridor for predators to access alpine refugia for caribou.

Restoration of habitat can involve a variety of activities. In the Klinse-za habitat restoration program, we focus our efforts on reforesting and restructuring linear features (e.g., old roads, seismic lines). This will limit the ability of predators to easily access caribou habitat and minimize caribou- predator interactions. Over time, reforesting the features will return the ecosystem to a more natural state.

Why monitor?

Crew member installing trail camera over an old road.

Our restoration project has two components, both equally important to the long-term success and usefulness of this endeavor. The ‘implementation’ piece is where features on the landscape actually change the way they look, appear to wildlife, or function within the ecosystem. These are the actions that include road structure modifications, tree planting, access alterations and other physical changes. To evaluate how much of a difference these changes made and how caribou and other wildlife are responding to them, we have a detailed monitoring program of data collection and analysis. It’s the monitoring that allows us to understand whether we’re meeting our objectives and make improvements to our plans if necessary.

Currently, our monitoring program has two main components: measuring changes in vegetation in response to restoration of linear features, and tracking wildlife and human road users through a network of trail cameras.

Trail camera discoveries

Motion activated trail cameras allow us to ‘have eyes’ across very large spatial extents, at all hours of the day and night. Since we currently have 200 cameras deployed across 7 different sites, we are monitoring a total of about 50 km of linear features. This large scale has allowed us to capture some interesting, valuable and sometimes surprising footage of the four-legged residents of our project area. One of the most vivid observations to date has been the large number of grizzly bears across the area – we have observed many sows with 2 to 3 cubs in tow, large males and several bears having a good scratch on trees, though our favourite picture remains a beautiful sunset image of a sow walking down the road with her three cubs!

Above: a grizzly sow walking down the road with her three cubs. Below: a tense face-off between wolf and moose – we don’t know what the outcome was.

We have also observed a wide suite of other predators, including black bears, wolves, cougars, lynx, coyotes, wolverines, and more. While we are hoping to reduce predator access into alpine areas, it is nonetheless interesting to see such a diversity of predators in one area. We also see ungulates making extensive use of the linear feature, with moose being most abundant. Caribou and elk are both seen periodically.

Vegetation sampling: getting into the weeds

Tracking vegetation is important for two reasons. First, plants are essential as they form the basis of the food chain: vegetation provides energy to herbivores (large and small), who in turn support a variety of predators. Second, plants are highly responsive to environmental conditions such as moisture, shade, and soil type, and can thus be effectively used as indicators of habitat change. Since our goal with restoration is to alter existing linear disturbances so that they more closely resemble the surrounding habitat, we use a ‘before-and-after’ vegetation sampling approach. Specifically, we are collecting data about the plants on and near the linear features now (the ‘before’), and will collect the same data at intervals from one to ten years after we carry out the restoration activities, so that we can evaluate whether the restoration has been effective.

Crew members Warren Desjarlais and Mariah Mueller identifying
plant species.

While spending long field days identifying and counting plants can be a little hard on the back and somewhat repetitive, there are many delights in this work for the ‘plant nerds’ on the project. Identifying rare species or unusual color variants keeps us on our toes and sometimes requires impromptu group debates right on the mountain. Because the sampling sites are spaced hundreds of meters apart, we get to hike through a variety of elevations and ecotypes and see beautiful country. Finally, this kind of intensive field sampling provides valuable real- world training opportunities in plant identification, and so we include First Nations community members and/or summer students on our crews to help them develop their expertise and confidence.

Thanks again to Wildlife Infometrics on behalf of the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society for providing this update on their work!

Thu, 16 Jul 2020
Tags: Caribou

Over $1 Million for Caribou Habitat Restoration Projects in BC

Photo of Upper Bigmouth restoration site following surface mounding and planting. The project team is planning to restore habitat on an additional 11.5 km of road in the area with this year's CHRF grant.

VICTORIA – With funding from the B.C. government, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has approved seven more projects that will help restore caribou habitat in British Columbia, through the organization’s Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund.

This round of grants totals almost $1.1 million (see details in list below). The Province has committed $8.5 million over three years to the foundation to support this type of work.

Human activity – such as forestry, mining, oil and gas, and roadbuilding work– has altered caribou habitat. Examples of activities that help restore caribou habitat include planting trees to restore areas to a pre-disturbed state and blocking former roads and other linear features such as seismic lines (corridors cleared of vegetation for oil and gas exploration) to reduce predator access.

For example, one of this year’s seven projects will expand on previous habitat restoration work done to benefit the Columbia North caribou herd near Revelstoke. With the support of a $33,217 grant, habitat is being restored along an 11.5-kilometre stretch of road in the area. Led by Yucwmenlúcwu, a Splatsin-owned resource management company, the project will add to the areas that were previously restored in the upper Bigmouth Valley north of Revelstoke.

Last year, the Yucwmenlúcwu project planted nearly 9,000 conifer seedlings along a five-kilometre stretch of road in the valley. The project team is actively monitoring the site to evaluate tree growth and survival and determine whether there have been any changes in the use of this land by caribou and other wildlife, including predators.

The Province initially provided $2 million to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation in April 2018 for a caribou habitat restoration program, and then committed another $6.5 million over three years as part of a multi-year agreement between the Province and the foundation. The goal then, as now, is to rehabilitate areas that have been prioritized for caribou recovery efforts. During its first public intake in 2019, the foundation funded 11 projects led by First Nations, government, industry and not-for-profit societies, worth about $1.2 million.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation will be accepting applications for caribou habitat restoration projects again in September 2020. The 2020 intake will close on Nov. 6, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific time). Further details are available here.

Caribou utilizing the Upper Bigmouth restoration area.

Quick Facts:

  • Since its inception in 1981, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has invested over $189 million in grants to support almost 3,000 conservation projects in B.C., with the goal of restoring, maintaining or enhancing native fish and wildlife populations and habitats
  • The B.C. government has committed $47 million over three years to build a comprehensive, science-based approach to protect and preserve B.C.’s 54 caribou herds. Its recovery program aims to restore this iconic Canadian species to a sustainable population.

2020-21 CHRF Approved Project List

Middle-Upper Bigmouth Creek (Project #4-621)

  • Led by Yucwmenlucwu (Caretakers of the Land) LLP
  • Designed to benefit the Columbia North herd Kootenay Region (130 km north of Revelstoke)
  • This project is planning the restoration of an additional 11.5 km of road in the Bigmouth valley
  • Approved for $33,217 for 2020-21
  • For more information, contact Corey Bird, Yucwmenlucwu (Caretakers of the Land) LLP
    Email bird@splatsindc.com

 

Ulkatcho (Project #5-318)

  • Led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MFLNRORD)
  • Designed to benefit the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd in the Cariboo Region (~30 km south east of Anahim Lake)
  • Project will plant trees and creating barriers along roads to deter predator movement
  • Approved for $314,572 for 2020-21

Tweedsmuir Caribou Winter Range – Chelaslie Road Restoration (Project #6-283)

  • Led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MFLNRORD)
  • Designed to benefit the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou (TEC) herd in the Skeena Region (60 km south of Burns Lake)
  • Project will create barriers along roads to deter predator movement, plant trees and transplant lichen (a preferred food source of caribou)
  • Approved for $385,960 for 2020-21
  • For more information, contact Anne-Marie Roberts, MFLNRORD
    Email roberts@gov.bc.ca

 

Amoco Road Restoration (Project #7-528)

  • Led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Designed to benefit the Moberly (Klinse-Za) and Scott East caribou herds in the Northeast Region (56 km west of Chetwynd)
  • Project will plant trees and create barriers along a road built for oil and gas exploration
  • Approved for $53,150 for 2020-21

Kotcho Lake Restoration Area (Project #7-529)

  • Led by the Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Department
  • Designed to benefit the Snake-Sahtahneh caribou herd in the Northeast region (approximately 80 km northeast of Fort Nelson)
  • Project will limit predator use of legacy seismic lines (corridors cleared of vegetation for oil and gas exploration) and replant areas to increase habitat suitability for caribou
  • Approved for $164,780 for 2020-21
  • For more information, contactKatherine Wolfenden, Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Department Email kwolfenden@fnnation.ca

 

Peck Creek-Upper Carbon (Project #7-543)

  • Led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Designed to benefit the Moberly (Klinse-Za) and Scott East caribou herds in the Northeast Region (54 km northeast of Mackenzie)
  • This project aims to restore 14 km of road to a more natural state by planting trees and using other techniques to reduce its use by people and predators
  • Approved for $123,865 for 2020-21

 

Doonan Creek (Project #7-544)

  • Project led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Designed to benefit the Moberly (Klinse-Za) and Scott East caribou herds in the Northeast Region (35 km northeast of Mackenzie BC)
  • This project aims to restore 1.6 km of road to a more natural state by planting trees and using other techniques to reduce its use by people and predators
  • Approved for $15,164 for 2020-21

Contacts:

Shannon West – Manager of Program Development
Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
shannon.west@hctf.ca
250 940 9789 EXT 204

 

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 356-7506

Thu, 21 Mar 2019
Tags: Caribou / Wildlife

Hands-on conservation at the Klinse-Za caribou maternity pen

Maternal pen, photo: Shari Willmott

Transporting crew to the pen, photo: Wildlife Infometrics

More than half of the caribou herds in BC are listed as ‘Threatened’. Given that predation on calves is one of the most direct causes of caribou population declines, two First Nations have partnered with Wildlife Infometrics on a maternal penning project of the Klinse-Za herd, supported by an HCTF grant.

To protect cows and calves from predators during the calving season, a proportion of the herd’s pregnant cows were captured in late March and placed in a guarded pen where they are monitored and fed by a team of First Nations Guardians. The cows and their calves will be released back into the wild in late July when the calves are 2 months old. This project is located in the historical territory of the Klinse-Za herd, northwest of Chetwynd, and the traditional territory of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations.

Follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pncaribou or Twitter at https://twitter.com/CaribouRecovery

 

Fri, 13 Apr 2018
Tags: Caribou

Province Grants $2 million to create Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund

Caribou

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has received $2 million dollars from the Province of British Columbia to help restore caribou habitat.
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, announced the funding this morning at the BC Wildlife Federation Conference in Kamloops. The funding is part of the Province’s comprehensive caribou recovery program, designed to conserve BC’s 54 caribou herds, some of which are in serious jeopardy.

“There were about 40,000 caribou in B.C. in the early 1900s. Today, there are only about 19,000 caribou left,” said Donaldson. “We need to do whatever we can to help enhance and recover caribou habitat to rebuild the numbers of this iconic species.”

Caribou require large home ranges and have complex habitat requirements. Many of the areas where caribou live have been affected by human disturbance, negatively impacting caribou survival. Restoring caribou habitat has been identified as a key component of caribou population recovery efforts.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) has a long history of managing funding for projects restoring habitat in BC. Since 1981, HCTF has funded over 2500 projects benefitting BC’s wildlife, freshwater fish and habitats. HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic said he was pleased the Province had chosen to partner with HCTF in its efforts to recover caribou habitat. “The goals of the provincial caribou recovery efforts directly align with the Foundation’s mandate to improve conservation outcomes for British Columbia’s wildlife,” said Springinotic.

Over the next month, government staff will be working with HCTF to develop the funding program. Additional information will be posted on HCTF’s website as details are confirmed.

For further details, see the BC Government News Release: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018FLNR0060-000624

Fri, 19 Dec 2014
Tags: Caribou

Reindeer or Caribou?

When it comes to wildlife, no other species symbolizes the Holidays more than the reindeer. Their incorporation into Christmas literature dates back to the early 1800s, though the roots of the association likely stretch back much further, to Norse mythology and the Scandinavians’ domestication of reindeer to pull sleds. Whatever the legend’s origins, the eight tiny ungulates depicted pulling Santa’s sleigh bear a remarkable resemblance to the caribou found here in BC. Though there are some generalized morphological differences between reindeer and caribou , they are one and the same species: Rangifer tarandus. In North America, the term “reindeer” is usually applied to domesticated caribou, while in Europe, reindeer is used as the blanket term for any animal belonging to the species.

Within Rangifer tarandus exists a number of subspecies. All caribou in BC are classified as belonging to the woodland subspecies ( Rangifer tarandus caribou). There are 52 herds of woodland caribou in the province, which can be further divided into three ecotypes: the Boreal, Northern Mountain and Southern Mountain Caribou. BC caribou mapAn ecotype is a genetically-distinct group of animals within a species that have adapted to a specific set of environmental conditions. This means that, while caribou from the different ecotypes look similar, they actually behave quite differently. For example, Northern and Boreal caribou live in areas where the snow is shallow enough that they can dig for ground lichens with their large, snowshoe-like feet. Southern Mountain caribou rarely dig for lichens in the winter months: they live in places where the snow is so deep, they have to feed on lichens growing on trees, and are thus dependent on old-growth forest habitat.

The following videos commissioned by the 14th North American Caribou Workshop beautifully present the challenges facing each of British Columbia’s caribou ecotypes, and some of the work being done to help ensure these iconic animals remain part of the BC landscape (they even include “caribou cam” footage from video recorders attached to some of the animal’s collars!)

 

 

 

Northern Ecotype (Telkwa Herd)

 

Boreal Ecotype

Mountain Ecotype (Southern Mountain in Video)

 

HCTF provided grants for a number of caribou conservation projects this year, including:

Project 4-485: Assessing predation risk from wolves and cougars for caribou in the Purcell Mountains Project 5-230: Habitat use and population monitoring of the Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou herd

Project 6-236: Impacts of Recreation and Wolves on Telkwa Caribou Recovery

Project 7-394: Herd Boundary Refinement for the Chase, Spatsizi, and Frog Caribou Herds

Project 7-424: Defining Nutritional Value of Summer Habitats for Caribou

 


 

 

Reindeer and Caribou Comparison

• Both male and female reindeer and caribou grow antlers (unique amongst the deer family)

• Both reindeer and caribou have large feet that are adapted for walking on the snow, digging through the snow to find food, and swimming.

• Female reindeer have larger antlers than female caribou

• Caribou bulls are larger than reindeer bulls

• Caribou have longer legs and Reindeer are shorter, stouter and more sedentary.

• Reindeer tend to stay with their heard when chased, while caribou scatter

• Reindeer have a flatter nose bridge than Caribou.

For more interesting facts about caribou/reindeer (both biological and cultural), click here.