A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images

Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds.

The captive breeding program would be a first, said Dave Argument, conservation manager for Jasper National Park.

“This idea of bringing in wild caribou (and) raising them in captivity to augment a wild herd is certainly a novel approach.”

No one doubts Jasper’s caribou are in trouble. One of the park’s three herds has already disappeared and the others are down to a handful of animals.

Parks Canada has proposed a $25-million project that would permanently pen up to 40 females and five males in a highly managed and monitored area of about one square kilometre surrounded by an electrified fence. The agency suggests the captive breeding could produce up to 20 calves a year — enough to bring Jasper’s herds to sustainable levels in a decade.

The plan received a big boost last week when an independent scientific review panel concluded that it would likely work.

The panel, an international group of conservation experts, agreed that without dramatic measures Jasper’s caribou will disappear. Strategies such as predator control or penning and protecting pregnant cows won’t work in a national park, it concluded.

“We are confident that the case has been made for the proposed breeding program,” the panel’s report says.

It does warn that careful monitoring would be required to assess the survival rate of young caribou released into the wild. The effects of climate change on habitat would have to be watched and wolves might occasionally have to be culled, it adds.

“Predators will need to be monitored and managed.”

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat to rebuilding herds, the report says.

Justina Ray, a caribou biologist and head of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the program would also have to consider conditions outside the parks, where energy activity, forestry and road-building continue to degrade habitat.

“Conversion of caribou habitat for all these mountain caribou in southern Alberta and (British Columbia) is ongoing, and these conditions outside the park are very relevant to anything that happens within it,” she wrote in an email.

Access to caribou habitat within the park would also have to be managed, she said.

“Access management (roads) … will need to be stronger than it has been to date if animals are to be released into a safe space.”

Parks Canada has met resistance when it has closed parts of Jasper park for part of the year to protect caribou.

Argument welcomed the panel’s conclusion. But issues remain before a final decision is made, he said. Budgets need to be approved and consultations conducted.

“There’s still an element of public support required,” said Argument. “We’re not going to proceed without the support of our Indigenous partners.”

A preliminary site has been chosen. It’s remote from the Jasper townsite and wouldn’t be open to public visits.

“It’s not going to be a zoo,” Argument said.

The caribou have to remain as wild as possible if they are to make it outside the fence, he said.

“Releasing naive animals from a captive breeding facility into the wild comes with certain risks.”

If all goes well, Argument said, the fenced pen could be built next year and accept its first animals as early as 2023.

Caribou herds are in trouble across the country. Argument said captive breeding wouldn’t help much in places where habitat loss is the problem, such as in areas heavily affected by industry, but it could work in other situations.

“Different circumstances call for different solutions,” he said.

“There are other situations across the country where this tool might be very useful. We’re at the cutting edge in potentially applying it here.”

The Canadian Press

CaribouWildlife

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Trees blown over by a windstorm in forest owned by Anderson Creek Timber. Photo: Anderson Creek Timber
Timber company logging near Nelson raises local concerns

Anderson Creek Timber owns 600 hectares of forest adjacent to the city

Keith Smyth, Kootenay Savings director at-large joins children from the Kids’ Care Centre at St. Michael’s Catholic School. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay Savings continues credit union’s tradition of giving

Funding totalling $48,250, is going to a wide array of Kootenay initiatives

From left: Karl Luedtke (West Arm Outdoors Club), Dale Williams (BCWF), Molly Teather (FLNORD), Gord Grunerud (West Arm Outdoors Club), Eugene Volokhov (Grand Prize Winner), Casey McKinnon and Lex Jones (Jones Boys Boats). Photo: Tammy White, Whitelight Photography
Balfour man lands big prize from angler incentive program

Eugene Volokhov of Balfour is now the proud owner of a sleek 18-foot Kingfisher boat

“I want to see the difference in the world, embrace it, celebrate it … ” Photo: David Cantelli/Unsplash
A new way to say ‘Hello’

“Inclusion, you see, is NOT about making us all the same.”

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read