BC's southern-most herd of mountain caribou is now so tiny that it can barely be called a "herd." What's been happening to them?
Bryce Comer's avocation is film-making, and he has been working on a film documenting the southern herd of mountain caribou since 2008. Comer explained that while their problems are complex and inter-related, the main problem has been the destruction of the places where they used to live. We call it "habitat loss" and it's mainly a result of logging. There's also the spreading take-over of valley bottoms for agriculture and human dwellings, highways and other infrastructure, not to mention the invasion of caribou habitat by snowmobiling and other noisy and intrusive motorized recreation. And caribou deaths from collisions on the highways.
Add to those impacts, Comer said, the fact that logged cut-blocks grow up at first in good forage for deer, moose and elk, so their populations increase, bringing a corresponding increase in predators such as wolves, who prey not only on the deer but also on the caribou. The controversial wolf cull is an attempt to relieve predator pressure on the caribou.
Most recently, there's a new initiative. Comer explained, "The BC Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ktunaxa tribe of BC, the Kootenai tribe of Idaho & Kalispel tribe of Washington State and many others have come together to start a maternal penning program in an effort to halt the decline in the numbers of caribou in the south Selkirk mountains, and hopefully restore them to self-sustaining numbers."
Comer says that even the tiny population remaining in this region is still thought to have enough genetic diversity to enable recovery if the caribou are given a chance. Will they have that chance? Come to the film, see what's happening, and see what you think.
On Tuesday, October 10, Comer's 45-minute film on mountain caribou will screen at the Miners Hall in Rossland. Doors will open at 7:00 pm, and the film will begin shortly after that. Admission is $10, which will go to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to help with caribou recovery efforts. After the film, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion. Refreshments will be available, so bring a bit of extra cash.
Picture below by Bryce Comer: a male caribou.