What’s left of the two local mountain caribou sub-populations are being relocated to Revelstoke in an effort to save their kind.

Both the South Purcell and Southern Selkirk traced and collared caribou were deemed impossible to mate due to their low numbers and ratio of bulls to cows.

According to Wildlife Biologist for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Leo DeGroot, the herd’s numbers have dropped significantly in the last few years.

“We only had three females left in the South Selkirks. We had 11 the year before, and in the South Purcells, I think we were at 14 in 2017 and then last year we only counted four.”

Unfortunately, the Selkirk population lost two of the three remaining cows just recently.

Cougars are rarely seen, but pose a risk to young caribou that haven’t yet reached maturity.
(image courtesy of Pixabay)

DeGroot says one had its tracking collar send a mortality email and his team determined it had died from a cougar attack. The other’s collar malfunctioned, is lost and presumably dead.

According to DeGroot, the remaining caribou will be integrated with another sub-species in a safe location.

“The decision was made to capture them and move them in, first to the empty maternal pens near Revelstoke. Then eventually combine them with the Columbia North population north of Revelstoke there, which currently has about 150.”

He says the next step for reintegrating the caribou back into their native territory will require a risky zoo-like captive rearing program.

“It’s going to be a couple of years to get captive rearing of the ground and another couple years at least before there’s animals ready to release. So a decision will have to be made at that time, where animals will be released. That’s still at least five years into the future. So whether they’ll be released back into the South Selkirks, South Purcells, we can’t say at this time.”

Until then, DeGroot says he hopes the herd will flourish up north until the time for reintegration comes.