News & Updates

Selcweycen (Caribou) Recovery Update

Words Yucwmenlúcwu Wildlife Biologist, Corey Bird

For Selcweycen recovery to be successful in the province, ongoing pressure on the provincial government to establish and implement recovery efforts are required. In the weeks and months ahead, Yucwmenlúcwu and Splatsin will continue to engage with caribou experts and governments to aid in the recovery efforts. There will be upcoming opportunities for community members that are interested in participating in the program. The following two articles provide a brief update on the status of Selcweycen recovery and highlight some of the restoration activities Splatsin has been involved in.

Did you know that Selcweycen were once distributed throughout Splatsin territory (Secwepemcúlecw) and that there are historic records of large herds in areas such as Hunter’s Range and the Upper Shuswap to the east, through the Okanagan and Granby ranges to the southeast and throughout the southern Kootenays?

Unfortunately, Selcweycen no longer exists in many of these southern areas. While the situation for remaining Selcweycen is dire, Southern Mountain Caribou still persist in Secwepemcúlecw and within the remaining herds, there are glimmers of hope (see photo below). In particular, the Columbia North herd has shown signs of population stability in recent years and has the highest number of individuals.

Photo: caribou captured on Bigmouth camera #3 August 8, 2020.

Yucwmenlúcwu and Splatsin are heavily invested and engaged in efforts to recover Selcweycen in areas throughout their historic range. This work is supported by a network of groups and individuals including those with the Caribou Monitoring Unit of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and the province of British Columbia. Some of the projects and initiatives that we are actively implementing and supporting, include:

  • Gathering, disseminating, and sharing information with and for Splatsin Title and Rights and Leadership.
  • Caribou habitat protection and restoration planning.
  • Monitoring of the Upper Bigmouth habitat restoration project and pursuit of future road restoration in the Mica Creek area (planned for summer 2022).
  • Maintenance of the existing Ruddock Creek caribou pen to support potential future caribou transplants.
  • Investigation/evaluation of potential future high-elevation maternity pen site for Columbia North.
  • Continued participation in the 2021-22 Columbia White-tailed deer project.
  • Planned involvement with the 2021-22 Central Selkirk predator track survey.

Caribou Habitat Restoration and Monitoring in the Upper Bigmouth Valley

Critical habitat for Selcweycen in the Columbia North herd needs to be secured for Selcweycen to recover. Habitat restoration in the Upper Bigmouth Valley is a road restoration project on the upper-most section of the Bigmouth Forest Service Road that Yucwmenlucwu designed, supervised, and has monitored over the past four years. This work is focused on reducing the use of logging roads by predators and ‘primary prey (e.g., moose, deer, and elk) through restoration strategies designed to discourage and/or slow animal travel (functional restoration) and increase the rate of vegetation recovery (ecological restoration).

As intact areas of old forests are removed through logging, forested landscapes become fragmented into a network of younger forests joined and intersected with roads (linear features). These young forests are known to benefit primary prey species and over time there is a change in the density and distribution of these species and their predators resulting in increased rates of predation on Selcweycen.

To understand the benefits of restoration and to inform future restoration efforts, monitoring work has been ongoing to evaluate the response and survival of both planted and natural vegetation. Monitoring of predator and primary prey use of the area through the use of motion-activated camera traps is another important component of the work.

Funding for this work has been provided by the Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund (CHRF), the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operation and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and BC Timber Sales. In addition to the work in the Upper Bigmouth, restoration prescriptions have been developed for an additional 11 km section of the Mid-Upper Bigmouth (that will extend restoration work previously completed in 2017), and funding has been secured for the restoration of two additional road networks in the Mica Creek area.

Photo: restoration area at Upper Bigmouth.
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