West Moberly and Saulteau Nations Lead Innovative Maternity Pen Project
in BC's North
TREATY 8 TERRITORY, April 10, 2014 /CNW/ - The northern First Nations
communities of West Moberly and Saulteau have partnered with industry
and the BC Government to create a unique maternity pen project as an
immediate step to slow the critical decline of the Klinse-Za caribou
herd. A first in northern BC, the goal of the program is to protect
vulnerable pregnant caribou and their newborn calves from predators
during this most critical time.
Ten females, all of which were tested to confirm pregnancy, were
gathered in late March and enclosed in a protective, screened,
four-hectare area within their natural calving range. The now secured
caribou will be fed and watched over around the clock by members of the
West Moberly and Saulteau communities, and the project team, including
wildlife biologists, who have set up a temporary camp near the pen
site. This protective area will allow calves to be born, whelped and
develop the ability to flee from predators, before they are released
back onto the range in July.
Caribou populations in this region of BC are listed as threatened under
the Species at Risk Act and are blue-listed (threatened) in BC. Caribou
numbers in the Klinse-Za herd have dropped to under 20 animals, mostly
due to calf mortality rates due to increased predator presence.
"Caribou were once in such abundance in BC's north that our elders
referred to them as seeming like "bugs on the landscape" but with the
industrialization of the land and an increase in predators, this
valuable animal has been declining at an alarming rate," said Chief
Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nation. "We thought it was
important as a community to show leadership not only through our
self-imposed moratorium on caribou hunting and commitment to species at
risk plan, but to take immediate action through this project to ensure
we don't lose this animal in our region forever."
Saulteau Lands Director, Naomi Owens agrees. "Caribou are not only part
of our identity as First Nations, but is also a strong symbol of Canada
for all us and an indication of the overall health of our ecosystems.
It became evident to us, with numbers dropping at such a rapid rate,
that something was critically out of balance. We were compelled to
intervene to ensure the next generation of caribou has a fighting
The initiative is relying on technical guidance and operational efforts
from partners around the region, particularly West Fraser Mills Ltd.
and Wildlife Infometrics Inc. Financial assistance is being provided by
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations of the Province of BC,
as well as support from community groups and local industry. The team
has committed to a multi-year program to ensure success in the
rejuvenation of Klinse-Za herd numbers. Longer-term program goals
include the rehabilitation and reestablishment of critical caribou
"We have an obligation to do whatever we can to reverse the impact to
the Klinse-Za herd and we are grateful to have the shared support of
many in the region," added Chief Willson. "Our hope is that we see
caribou numbers steadily increase with our stewardship.
Background on Klinse-Za Caribou Herd Maternity Pen Project in Northern
Purpose of the project is to protect pregnant caribou cows and calves
from various predators in the region during calving season. Cows are at
risk while delivering calves and newborns are at risk during the first
few weeks of life while they are nursing.
Ten caribou cows, all of which were tested to confirm pregnancy, were
gathered in late March by the project team - including veterinarians -
and the group was captured, sedated and transported by helicopter to
the pen site. The cows were radio collared and moved by snowmobile to a
screened, four hectare, penned clearing area in the natural calving
The pen is protected by an additional electric fence along the perimeter
and is monitored by the project team who have set up walled camp
adjacent to the pen area. Signage has been placed around the pens to
ensure noise and access is restricted.
Caribou cows will be fed lichen from the area as well as supplemented
with pellet feed in troughs twice daily during the penning period.
Caribou cows are expected to give birth in May to calves and group will
remain in the pen during the nursing and weaning period to allow calves
to gain strength before release back into the range area.
Caribou have adapted well to the pen area, are active and eating lichen
Both cows and calves expected to be released in July.
Project funding and in-kind support has been provided by:
West Moberly First Nation and membership
Saulteau First Nation and membership
West Fraser Mills Ltd.
Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Province of BC
Image with caption: "Pregnant northern caribou females feed on lichen and pellets at a trough inside the secured maternity pen in their native range outside Chetwynd, BC. Herd members were gathered in late March by members of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations and the project team and placed in the secured, four hectare screened pen to protect them and their calves from predators during the vulnerable birthing period. (CNW Group/West Moberly First Nations)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140410_C9377_PHOTO_EN_39111.jpg
Image with caption: "Members of the Northern Caribou Maternity Penning Project, led by the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, add a radio collar and take blood samples from a female caribou just outside of Chetwynd, BC. The pregnant female will live in a four hectare, screened, secure penned area for protection from predators and be fed and monitored until she delivers her calf and they are both strong enough to be released back into the open range in July. (CNW Group/West Moberly First Nations)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140410_C9377_PHOTO_EN_39112.jpg
SOURCE: West Moberly First Nations
For further information:
For additional images of the Klinse-Za caribou herd, the maternity pen project team in action or to arrange an interview about this initiative, please contact:
Elisha McCallum, on behalf of Treaty 8 Tribal Association