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Featured Endangered Wildlife

Large animals are dying out.

What this means is that the ecosystem is in big trouble.

It isn’t just the Caribou which is dying out, grizzly bear, lynx, and wolverine populations are in trouble as well.

Large mammals like caribou and grizzlies are an indicator of the health of an ecosystem.

The fact that we are losing these large animals means that the overall health of our ecosystems is beginning to fail.


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Recent Caribou News


Feature Endangered Habitat

The US Cabinet Mountains for example, just 80 kilometers south of the Canadian border, is home to less than 15 grizzlies.  Last year 3 bears were shot here because they went into town. These bears, two of whom were females, come from the last population of bears in the region. The grizzlies to the South have been wiped out. 

Many areas no longer have any bears left.

It doesn’t take a lot to alter an area so that bears

do not feel good about crossing the road or highway.

For instance, in the South Purcells near Creston and Cranbrook, very few bears still successfully cross the #3 highway.  This can lead to isolated populations that are more susceptible to extinction.  Grizzly females generally do not cross a roads or human settled areas.  Grizzly researchers are trying to find out where bears are still crossing our valleys, and managing the landscape to maintain this.

Wildlife crossing structures on highway #1 near Banff are starting to become part of the animals life. The animals did not use these structures at first, but in areas where the animal has grown up with the structure, they will use the structure in order to cross the highway. Previously, overpasses were created. Underpasses would also be effective as they would be more natural.

Previous Wildlife Stressors

The bears used to count on salmon and berries in order to double their mass for hibernation. Since the development of the Grand Coulee Dam, there are no more salmon. The Canadian Government was asked if they would like the Dam to incorporate a fish ladder, but the Canadian Government decided that they had enough salmon and now the bears live mostly on berries. The bears main source of protein and fat died along with the salmon that could no longer make it up the rivers to spawn. Gone with the bears are the burrowing owls and other creatures who relied on grasslands that were flooded under the Kookanusa Dam.

How beautiful is a province that is losing it’s habitat and wildlife?

The least we can do as a province is help save our endangered species.

In the last 10 years, up to 25% of the Caribou population has died out.

Over 50% of caribou habitat no longer supports caribou.

There are only 1900 Caribou remaining in BC. These caribou are now isolated into as many as 18 different herds, many which do not have the opportunity to mate with herds' outside their own. As few as 20 remain in the Purcell herd, 40 in the South Selkirks, 8 in the Kimbasket, and 7 in the Monashees.  All of the herds but one (the largest herd known as the Hart Range Herd) have declined by 50% or more over the last decade.  Some herds, such as the George Mountain herd, have  recently gone extinct.  These herds are very small, and many of these herds are unable to mate with another herd. As you know, having a very small heard that is unable to mate with other herds does not lead to a very robust herd.


Dave brought up an important factor: The Kootenays used to be heavily forested , in some areas with large old-growth like the West Coast, with huge cedar. I grew up in this area and spent a lot of time outdoors. However, I had always thought of this area as loosely populated with small varieties of tamarack, spruce and alder. This area was deforested many years ago in order to provide for the making of the railway. Also, mining had a large impact on early forests, instead of chopping down the trees and working through the devils club in order to make way for mining and other development, fires were set so that the valleys could more easily be prospected.

Valley bottoms are critical winter habitat.

The caribou tend to head for the valleys during the early winter because there is less deep snow at lower elevations. However, for much of the year mountain caribou can be found in upslope old-growth forests.

Old-growth forests canopy intercepted much of the early season snow, allowing animals to move more easily and find more food. It is much easier for the caribou to move around in areas with less snow, as it takes a lot more energy for the caribou to move its huge body through deeper snow. The valleys have less snow during the winter, compared to areas of deep snow up in the mountains.

Because of logging, the caribou must move up slope into the deeper snow in order to find food.

Much of the historical caribou habitat has been lost to clear cutting.  And still logging companies, including our vary own BC Timber Sales, continue to log endangered caribou habitat.

Mountain caribou do not thrive in “new” forests (clear cut or clear block forests).

Clear cutting creates great habitat for elk, moose, and deer, which move into what was historically mountain caribou habitat.  Cougar and wolf follow them up the mountain.  Now caribou bump into prey such as cougars.

Forestry also allows increased access to motorized recreation, such as snowmobiles, into mountain caribou habitat. 

Higher up the mountain, other stressors are apparent as the animals that require peace and solitude for survival now have to deal with motorized vehicles.

These other stressors include: development, timber harvesting, neighborhood encroachment into endangered species land, motorized recreation such as snowmobiles and helicopters, and global warming.

Radio telemetry has shown that caribou abandon areas that are heavily used by snowmobiles.

Some of our parks (including Monashees, Caribou Mountains, Goat Range, and Bugaboo Provincial Parks) actually allow heli skiing – a major winter stressor for wildlife.

The entire winter feed for a caribou is witches hair and old mans beard – hair lichens that grow in abundance only in old-growth forests.

These caribou spend more energy living in an environment they normally don’t live in. The energy is spent on wading through deeper snow, trying to find food in deeper snow. This means that the caribou must eat more in order to sustain itself. Does this environment provide this nourishment for them?

Due to development and motorized recreation, they are forced to expend another more energy on listening for and worrying about snowmobiles and helicopters, and more energy still moving away from these noises.

One of the biggest issues that threaten caribou

is the easiest to fix through legislation:

4000 snowmobiles show up for the Big Iron Shootout in the Revelstoke area at Boulder Mountain, and drive from one mountain to the next. They look like their own heard of caribou.  The snowmobilers’ favorite spots are the big open areas and areas that you can figure eight around from tree patch to tree path. These are the same trees that the caribou depend on but can no longer reach safely.

For some herds, such as the Central Selkirks herd, it is very hard to find mountain caribou habitat where you can’t hear snowmobiles or helicopters, during the winter – almost the entire herd range for this herd has been given out to commercial recreation tenures such as heliskiing, cat skiing, and snowmobile tours.

There is no snowmobile enforcement, no licensing, and few if any closed areas in BC, and everyone knows this. People come from Alberta and all over the world in order to snowmobile unhindered in Beautiful British Columbia, which is open to almost any business.

Developments are also stressors:

The mountains are like fingers on your hand.

If one finger cut off in order to developed a ski resort you have now created an island that is cut off from the rest of the hand.

Check out www.jumbowild.com for more information on how to stop a proposed ski resort development in the heart of the wild Purcells.

Threshold of tolerance is being reached on a grand scale

Global warming is another threat to our diversity. In another 10 years, Glacier National Park will no longer have any glaciers. The glaciers are melting all over the world.

Trains no longer have to stop for a heard of 150 caribou. That’s more caribou than our entire area has.

Logging still takes place in endangered species habitat, including caribou habitat.

Listen up current and soon to be natural resources managers:

The scientists have asked for protection of the endangered species. The government has responded with a modified version that in some cases focuses on use of culling predators.

Culling is not the answer

BC’s idea of a recovery plan depends on culling (KILLING) the predators of the Caribou in order to save the Caribou. Killing other animals to save another animal is NOT the answer.

If you have a heard of 20 caribou and a cougar near by, it may make sense to some to kill that cougar, but a better answer would be to have more caribou habitat to support more caribou as well as other animals.

Even a dummy can figure out that

No Habitat = No wildlife

More Habitat = More Wildlife

 Other facts that I have learned about the caribou from other sources:

For Barrenground Caribou (a different subspecies from mountain caribou – found in Northern Canada): Stressors such as global warming, and predator encroachment have stressed the remaining animals to a point where the Caribou are now endangered.

There are more mosquitoes

The Caribou now spend much of their time running from hundreds of mosquitoes that overrun herds due to an extra degree or two in temperature difference in the caribous summering lands. Running around means that the caribou are not fattening up, instead they are getting skinner and run down. Caribou are unable to make it across the raging rivers in order to get back to their winter grounds because they are already so worn down, even before winter begins. Babies are being left behind. The indigenous people have been carrying the babies across the rivers so that the babies have a chance of staying with the herd.

Caribou have not fattened up enough to last through the even leaner winters.

During the winter, the caribou are unable to get to food under the snow because one or two extra degree's in temperature means that a layer of ice is now covering their food, which lays beneath the snow. Caribou are getting exhausted and hurt trying to stomp through this ice, often leaving the caribou unfed. Their legs are cut and leave bloody trails.

 The above information is an overview of a lecture taken from Dave Quinn’s:

“A Purcell Traverse from Kimberly to Rogers Pass by Foot and Ski, and an update on BC’s Recovery Plan for Endangered Mountain Caribou”: An Evening of Images and Tales from the Kootenays with Photographer, Author, and Conservationist Dave Quinn.

Hosted by Mountain Equipment Co Op (MEC) & the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club. Feb 14, 2007.

Endangered Wildlife and Habitat need our help to survive. You can help.

Take Action: The power of 5
Each letter sent to the Government has the power of 5 in the decision making process. The Government  looks at each letter as if 5 people have the same belief as the person sending in the letter. So please send in your letters. Every letter, ever postcard, every email and every signature on a petition is important and really does make a difference.

You can help with other campaigns by:
1) Having a letter writing party!
2) Using a form letter with an attached petition
3) Send in a premade postcard

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